Everyone needs a little motivation to do unwanted tasks from time to time, but inspiring kids can be especially challenging. Bribing a child to clean his room or do homework with sweets or toys may seem like a good idea, but all it will ultimately motivate him to do is expect a reward in exchange for doing the task. If you want to foster a sense of drive, responsibility and accountability in a child, you need to tap into rewards such as pride, self-esteem and the satisfaction derived from reaching for and achieving a difficult goal.
Catch Your Child Being Good
Reward effort over achievement. All children benefit from motivating praise when a child tries to do a task that is challenging. Even if your child isn’t getting A’s in math, give him a hug and tell him how much you appreciate it when you see him studying for a test or working hard on homework. If your child sets his own alarm as you asked and gets up on time, tell him how much you appreciate him following directions. Praise, when done right and for the right reasons, is a very powerful motivator.
Set a Good Example
If you want to motivate your child to read, make sure he sees you reading. Make reading easy for him, set out books and magazines about subjects he is interested in on the dinner table, on his desk and around the house. Don’t force him to read, but let him see you pick up the material and read it. Likewise, if you want your child to be neat and tidy, make sure he sees you picking up after yourself. If you want help with a chore like loading laundry or the dishwasher, start the task and ask if he can give you a hand finishing it.
Empower your child with information in a caring way. Sit down and have a conversation together about why something is important, rather than just doling out orders. Get close to your child and let him know you want an open dialogue. Be firm but flexible. If he doesn’t want to do a certain chore, find out why. Maybe he can swap the chore with his sister or do another chore in its place for you that he is more comfortable with.
Break It Up
If a task is too complex or difficult for a child, break it up into more manageable chunks. Let your child do half the task and take a break to play a game. Just make sure to set a time limit on the break and reinforce that he must finish the task or lose out on the reward of game-time in the future.
Get to Root of Problem
You can't motivate a child to do something he simply can’t do. If your child is giving up on homework, sit down and talk to him about what is causing the difficulty. Maybe there’s a learning disability you are unaware of; perhaps he needs tutoring or extra help to develop his skill set to perform the task. No one likes to be set up to fail. Motivate your child by taking the time to find out what’s holding him back.