5 effective and time tested ideas for motivating your child

5 effective and time tested ideas for motivating your Child.

You can steer yourself any direction you choose”. – Dr. Suess.  His book Oh, the places You’ll go? has been one of the most popular choices as the graduation gift for the preschool children over the years. The intention is to reinforce the belief that children are naturally endowed with curiosity and the capability to work on their curiosity. Children believe that they can do everything! They always imagine what they want in great zest and detail. It is up to us as adults – both parents and teachers to not shake off that belief as we are the biggest influencers around them. A big responsibility that, isn’t it?

What drives children to do things that they should and stop what they shouldn’t? As adults, we know that how we respond to what is happening around us is always up to us. We are in control of our responses with the deeper understanding of the fact that whatever is happening around us, to us, with us, may not be under our control at all times. What we do is take control of our actions in a given situation. Once that is done, we can increase our circle of influence to situations or people around us. There would still remain a wider area, that would always be outside of our control but will influence our wellbeing. How can we instil that attitude of optimism and grit? How can we exemplify that to our children?

Kids have a strong sense of connection with parents and that is a very powerful tool for motivation. Studies have shown that children who feel secure in their attachment to their parents are more resilient. It is known now that character strengths like curiosity and self-control are teachable skills.

How shall we invest in their character? Here are 5 effective and time tested ideas for your consideration:

  1. Rewards and consequences
    1. It is true that rewards can sometimes be useful in getting things done in the short term. This works in organised sports. However, it is also true that when this is applied to manage behaviour, your child will become dependent on rewards. Consequently, when the reward stops, the behaviour stops. When the reward is not good enough, the behaviour is also not good enough. The benchmark of the quality and quantity of the reward will continuously need to rise higher if reward is used regularly to motivate your child.
    2. Even if the activity you want your child to engage in is intrinsically enjoyable, if your child associates it with extrinsic motivation, the child will stop doing the activity if there is no extrinsic reward as it has been observed that a reward centric method somehow extinguishes the child’s passion.
  2. Conversations
    1. When your child complains about a task at hand, share your thoughts on why you think the activity is useful. If your child is unwilling to clean up the room, understand why – is he/she tired or bored or finds the task too complicated and possibly does not know where to start from. Same goes for homework and any action that is considered as a chore by the child.
    2. Avoid using should or must as part of the instruction. Replace them with could, consider, because, however etcetera and get on the same side of the problem as your child. Work out the solution together.
  3. Understanding
    1. Lace your asks for tasks that are particularly disliked by your child with creativity – like using a puppet or a song during clean-up time.
    2. Use challenge for tasks that you want done quickly, example – racing a sibling home from the park.
    3. Give choice for non-negotiables. Say for dinner time, child can sit either next to you or next to dad. For brushing – it can be before bath or after. You get the drift.
  4. Expectation setting
    1. Set realistic expectations from your child by understanding the actual capabilities and interests while you set the bar. The key word here is “realistic”. For this you need to keep a very open mind. Children blossom at different rates.
    2. Appreciate when some expectations are met or exceeded. For example – if the child has got a B+ after getting C or is practicing regularly for a match or a concert, praise the effort that he/she is putting in.
  5. Role model
    1. This is simple but often forgotten in the pressure of parenting. When you are working and your child needs your attention, instead of saying wait a minute and then take half hour, give realistic time for the wait. If it’s urgent, address it right away. Remember, everything that the child wants you to hear is important. You would want your child respond to you similarly, for example – when you headed to the airport and are waiting for your child to join the group, at that point in time, “just a minute” by your child will mean exactly that.
    2. Show by example how conflicts can be resolved by modelling it yourself. For e.g. when you have differences with your spouse or with anyone that the child can see or hear, be mindful of the tone of your voice, your body language, the approach you are taking for conflict resolution. These are all learned behaviours.
    3. If you want the child to learn their manners, you are the best role model. Starting from using please and thank you to whoever serves you, including your house staff. Also, not using language you don’t approve of for your child, yourselves at any time.

Here are a few suggestions to take your understanding further:

– great list of books to have in your child’s home library.

– check out this ted talk by Rita Pierson. She calls for educators to believe in their students and build connections with them

– a Tedx talk by Jennifer Nacif who tells parents exactly how to motivate your children, by changing your ways from manipulations to motivation.

For years it has been believed that cognitive capabilities are the key drivers of success. However, over the years, research has shown as has my experience of being an educator, that persistence and grit, self-control and optimism are some of the key qualities that help children succeed and remain happy. A strong and positive relationship with parents motivates the child to not only achieve but exceed their own capabilities.

Nivedita Mukerjee is a journalist, educator and parent. She writes about matters that concern a child’s success and well-being. She can be reached at niveditamukerjee10@gmail.com.

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2 thoughts on “5 effective and time tested ideas for motivating your child

  1. Nice and useful, Nivedita!

    Role-modelling is the toughest!

    Rita’s talk was lovely. I wish all my teachers were like her…

    As for trying to find what motivates my kids, I am still experimenting. To my 13 year-old, I have even confessed (in earnest) that I may have erred as a first-time parent, and that my parenting techniques were learned from our own parents.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The good doctor and me stumbled into parenthood and then bumbled our way through . Thankfully being a paediatrician he was more hands on . Our first child was born a month before I turned 22 !! And 3 1/2 years later the second one arrived! So it was a tight rope walk juggling work , home and kids . Wish a book on parenting came out with the placenta ! Life would have be easier !
    Thank you Ms Niv for this insightful post !
    Convincing children to do the things they don’t want to without collateral damage can be challenging. And getting them to stop doing the things you don’t want them to do , can be trickier still. Your no-nag strategies are a life saver for a lot amongst us .. both parents and grandparents ! Reconsidering rewards,having meaningful conversations,embracing their imperfections( as we perceive them ),setting realistic expectations and leading by example !! Spot on !
    I loved the ‘Watch’ list! Totally smitten by Rita Pierson ! Yet to get Paul Tough .Ordered my copy from Amazon ! Cant wait .So until then let me raise a toast to the amazing possibilities of motivating children and watch with pride as they fly ! ‘You can steer yourself any direction you choose’!! Thank you Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel! Good luck beautiful people and Adios !
    Trivial trivia :
    Dr Seuss was born on March 2 nd 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts, United States.So through the months of February and March his books and other merchandise are on ‘sale’ in most stores across MA so a certain someone had great shopping experience in Boston !

    Liked by 1 person

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