How to encourage self motivation in your kids

by ParentCo. July 06, 2015

mother and daughter getting ready to bake

Have you ever considered encouragement to motivate your kids to do their contributions at home or even in the classroom? Yes? Great! Encouragement is one more way to rid you and your family or your classroom of sticker charts, bribing, and reminding forever. This article from The Greater Good Magazine offers GREAT points for using encouragement to increase our children’s self-motivation, specifically when it comes to tasks they are reluctant to perform. (AKA the boring stuff).
  • Show empathy—before you even ask your children to do something you know they don’t want to do. And if, after you have empathized with their feelings, they continue to resist, and then ask “what?” Sometimes the answer to the “what” is simple and can be the key to cooperation. For example, instead of constantly reminding, bribing and nagging your children to fold their laundry, empathize with them and their desire to do more fun things, and then ask what makes it so hard to get the job done. You might find out that they just don’t want to go down to the basement laundry room alone—it’s scary. Or you might find out they would happily do it if they were listening to music or watching TV at the same time.
  • Offer a real rationale for motivation—Don’t just say, “Because I told you to.” Instead explain to them why brushing their teeth, or keeping the bathroom clean, or vacuuming the floor will keep them, and the whole family, healthy; give them examples of the things you are free to do now that they are helping take over their portion of the family work. Tell them that you are giving them responsibilities now because they will need to know how to do all of these things, and more, when they are 18 and on their own.
  • Let your kids know that they have a choice, rather than trying to control them—bossiness does not lead to cooperation, period. Your children are much less likely to help out, and will definitely not help out happily, when you use bossy, controlling language. Instead, let your children know that they have a choice in their contribution. Maybe the choice is when; for example, “Would you like to fold your laundry now or after dinner?” Or maybe the choice is whether they will help at all; for example, “Would you be willing to …”. If your children say no, then find out what they would be willing to do, or go back to # 1 and ask what is stopping them from contributing.
  • There are always going to be tasks that our children really don’t want to do (gee, there are tasks I don’t want to do). The key to developing cooperation is how we respond to their unwillingness. Do we try to squash it with controlling language, do we bribe them with rewards and stickers, OR—do we use our power to encourage by empathizing with their feelings, finding out more about the situation by asking questions, giving them real reasons for doing the task, and allowing them some choice in how or when the task is going to be completed?
For more information, see the article, “How to Get Kids to Do Boring (but Necessary) Tasks”, Half-Full: Science For Raising Happy Kids, Christine Carter Ph.D., April 29, 2009,


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