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Motivate and Inspire

Face it: it’s hard to motivate kids. From toddlers to preschoolers to school-aged to pre-teens to teenagers—it’s like a game of tug of war. Power struggles are tough. If your child is always unmotivated, there are several ways to lift them up. Debbie Pincus, in her piece called "Unmotivated Child? 6 Ways to Get Your Child Going", indicates that “your child’s lack of motivation is not your fault, so don’t personalize it.” Although it’s definitely not as easy as it sounds, she is right. Being a parent is really the toughest job in the world, and it can be a very frustrating experience. In order to motivate kids, rewarding, praising and leading are just a few tools parents can exercise.

Kids love rewards. It encourages them to complete a task, and the outcome often favors the parent as well. But, these rewards can also have a very small shelf-life and ultimately become problematic. What if they expect a piece of candy or a toy every time they do as they are told? In an article titled "6 Ways to Motivate Your Kids", Renee Bacher of Parents Magazine (who uses the findings of several child psychologists throughout the piece) notes that although rewards can be helpful temporarily, the positive effects are short-lived. Utilizing research from Stanford University, it was found that when “children who enjoyed drawing with markers were paid to do so, they quit using them when they were no longer paid. In other words, the reward somehow extinguished their passion.” Instead, Bacher recommends that “encouraging him to follow the lead of what makes him feel good inside” is a much better and productive reward.

Kids love to be praised. Bacher indicates that parents should praise their children when it is warranted, but to “be careful about how you praise; focus on effort and growth more than outcome.” A good example is chores. Kids hate them. But, parents have to teach them that even if they dislike something, it’s often necessary. In doing so, it’s important to avoid being a controlling force. Bacher states that “children like to believe that what they are doing was their choice rather than an obligation.” They will take note of their own efforts, and move forward. Bacher also suggests adding some creativity to the jobs your child dislikes, and “offer a choice when possible, even a limited one such as brushing teeth before bathtime or after; this gives kids a feeling of autonomy, an important component of tapping into internal motivation.”

If you really look at parenting kids, it’s similar to an ongoing game of Monkey See, Monkey Do. Because children learn from what they see and hear, it’s vital that a parent inspires by example. Bacher promotes educating them in common manners. Teaching and using responses like “please” and “thank you” often will propel them to speak pleasantly with others. Another example is conflict response. Bacher suggests that a parent “try to resolve your conflicts with your spouse in a loving and admirable way.” This will motivate them to do the same in the event an argument or disagreement occurs with another person.

You are your child’s best teacher; a model perhaps. In the long run, your child will thank you for the jobs you set aside for them to accomplish, which can ultimately help them to reach their goals. President Dwight Eisenhower has a great quote about motivation: “motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.” If they are unresponsive or hesitant, keep working at it. Eventually, they will get it. Work is what it’s all about.

You can find great parenting advice and behavioral information on:

Parents Magazine

Empowering Parents

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