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Have you ever experienced the eye-roll, been ignored or asked to stop nagging when wanting your child to complete a task? There are strategies to motivate children to clean up, do their homework and reduce the battle to get the job done.

In the business world, one of a manager’s most important duties is to inspire and motivate the team. Effective parenting can encourage and motivate our personal team players so that they can be their best with positive results.

But how?

Convincing someone to do something is not easy and asking them to do something when they are in the middle of something (like video games!), well that is even harder.

While these strategies work best starting from a young age, it is never too late. There are always creative ways to invite cooperation, no matter how old the child is.

Here are some positive tools to encourage and motivate children.

Being authentic

There are many ways to encourage and praise a child, but we need to be careful how we do this so as not to have a negative impact. The best way is to be truthful. Kids are smart and they know how to read their parents. If we exaggerate our praise and say that they are “a genius” for solving a math problem when they only got 1 out of 3 right, they won’t believe us. But if we said: “You came up with an excellent answer for the question”; it will be received as sincere.

Be careful with rewards

Some parents will choose to use bribes to motivate children to achieve success; such as candy for using the potty or extra money for helping to take out the garbage. This type of motivation is extrinsic – meaning they are simply doing something to please someone else. The results may be obtained but the novelty eventually wears off and the stakes will only get higher. A child may refuse to use the potty for any kind of reward and it could also delay the natural progress. For the child that is being paid to help out, as they get older, it will either become very expensive to take out the trash or no amount will ever be enough. However, intrinsic motivation – meaning the reward comes from the correct behavior itself and will have long lasting results. By encouraging a child to do what feels good to them on the inside will help them to feel more successful, happier along the way and will naturally inspire them to help or master a skill.

Use descriptive and specific words

When we motivate using descriptive words, rather than generic, the message is perceived as sincere and will encourage and motivate by showing we care. For example, if we say to a child, “that’s a nice picture”, nice is a subjective word and can have a different effect from one person to another. However, if we say “I like the way you drew the house by the water” or “I like the different colors you used on this drawing”, demonstrates we are paying attention and that we care. This will encourage the desired behavior. For older children we can point out a specific way they helped and the positive impact. Saying: “Thank you for setting the table, this helped to give me some time to relax after a long day at work”. The message will encourage children to want to help out, that they are loved, appreciated and valuable part of the family.

Praise their effort, not only their ability

When we praise children for their achievements, they attribute success with their effort. Children learn to put in the effort in order to master their skills. The same goes for a failed attempt, we point out that at least they studied and tried. Constructive praise motivates by placing the emphasis on the action and not the child. So, instead of saying “next time you can try harder”, we can say “I can see you put a lot of hard work into studying”. This will also help children understand that when they fail at something, and we all do, they can always try harder or do things differently next time.

Learning is a lifelong process and this type of encouragement allows children to have a growth mindset. We all need encouragement. How great that we can build up a child (or an adult!) that even if we fail, at least we tried. We are then able to see it as an opportunity to teach, learn, change and grow.

Article contributed by OpenSpace Clinic

– Tamara Malinoff Ps.Ed. 

Tamara is a licensed psychoeducator, specializing in child development, behavior, and adjustment difficulties. She holds a graduate diploma in Youth Work from Concordia University, a graduate certificate in Psychoeducation from Université de Montréal; and is a member in good standing with the Ordre des psychoéducateurs et psychoéducatrices du Québec (OPPQ). Tamara works in both the public and private sectors and has experience working with children of all ages, parents, and families.

Through a solution focused approach, Tamara offers psychological support and guidance with positive strategies in the areas of: child development, emotional regulation and attachment, bedtime struggles, behavioral challenges, nutrition and picky eaters, positive parenting, relational difficulties, separation or divorce; and coping strategies for life’s challenging moments.

With care and compassion, Tamara strives to connect with her clients to foster a positive, trusting relationship; believing in each individual’s capacity to achieve their goals.

Feature image via Pinterest

GLW Contributors - Professionals in their field. Contributing to Girls Living Well their knowledge, experience and advice.

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