“Motivate” in my dictionary almost means bribery. As a mum of two boys, I have found it challenging to motivate them to do the right things, their homework, revision, music practice. Honestly, I would love to “bribe less” and “motivate more”. How do we truly move away from sticks and carrots, and work towards intrinsic motivation?
If you are nagging, yelling, upset over your child not doing what he or she ought to be doing, you are not alone. The need to motivate the child was especially urgent during the Circuit Breaker, when Home Based Learning was carried out. Most children are not intrinsically motivated, nor have a sense of urgency. Hence, guidance and prodding from their well-meaning parents is necessary but given in appropriate amounts.
How to Motivate Your Child
1. Communicate consequences clearly
Lay out the consequences clearly and firmly.
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“When you choose not to focus, you have less play time.”
“When you do not pack your bags, you will not be able to follow the lessons well.”
“Since you didn’t finish your work, you will have to miss the soccer game.”
“If the room is still messy, you won’t be able to go for the play date but pack it neatly.”
Sometimes, children forget their oft-foolish decisions lead to poor outcomes. Reminding them could help steer them gently onto making the right decisions. They might still choose to procrastinate/delay/ignore your good intentions, let them face the consequences of the decision so they would reap what they sow.
Similarly, if the child chooses to persevere at a task, give praise generously and remind them the rewards of hard work. You can even choose positive reinforcement with a carrot such as extra board game time, undisturbed reading or play time and so on.
2. Give choices
Give the child choices of essential tasks, be it music practice or homework that needs to be completed. Sometimes instead of sticking to a rigid schedule, perhaps they would prefer to be given choices.
This helps them have a sense of ownership over their tasks. Upon completion of each task they can be rewarded with a break of choice – reading, doodling or just chilling. With completion of all chores and tasks, the child can be rewarded with a sought-after activity. Pick a few of your child’s favourite activities like hobbies, or playing with a prized collection of toys that can serve as a wonderful reward for all the hard work.
3. Inspire the child
Whether it’s math or music, sometimes we all need inspiration to feel driven. Read a book about math theories, or play a Youtube video of a musician so that the end goal in mind is not grades-driven but to fuel a lifelong aptitude for continual learning.
Getting past exam papers or music grades are just short-term goals. Life is like a marathon, not a race. So encourage your child to enjoy the journey, persevere in attaining short-term goals while keeping the eyes on continual improvement.
Remember the milestones, celebrate them and talk about how much the child has grown in the number of months or years to achieve the growth.
4. Take a breather
When the going gets tough, sometimes we all need to take a breather. Reset everyone’s mood with a break. Whether it’s a prayer, or some music or some dancing, we can take a chill pill and then get on with the tasks after. When basic needs are met, the child is likely to want to move on with the next tasks.
5. Put anxiety and your own fears aside.
The anxiety and fears of parents may be well-intentioned, but they could also cripple the child’s esteem and determination. Ideally, we all want our child to be intrinsically motivated. Addressing our own insecurities could stop projecting our ideals and unreasonable expectations on our child. This could also lighten the mood at home to be a less stressful one.
This is probably the hardest step for parents and caregivers who often want the best for our children. Instead of nagging, we could gently prod by offering tools like timers, setting goals together, listing down tasks on a calendar, designing a schedule everyone agrees with.
Motivating a Child Takes Love and Patience
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and motivated children might take a lifetime to nurture. Like plants, children need to be given space and time to blossom. You are definitely not alone in wanting to motivate your child. We hope the tips will help!