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Intersection of Life and Faith

Motivate Your Child

  • 2001 2 Jan
Motivate Your Child
How can you get your child to "do" the responsibilities delegated to him or her? Here are a few ideas from moms who have been there:

  • Magnet Motivator. "In our home, each morning, I place my children's responsibility magnets on the left side of the refrigerator. When they wake, each child checks his or her magnets to see what they need to do before they can leave for school or go out to play. As they complete each task, they move the corresponding magnet to the right or 'finished' side of the refrigerator. The magnets are easy to make. For the nonreader, pictures, symbols, or simple drawings can give direction. If the child makes his or her own set of magnets, then more ownership is given so motivation will be higher to accomplish the goal of moving the magnets."

  • Help Them Bloom. Write responsibilities on Popsicle sticks and each day have each child choose one or more. This is great for routine tasks of setting the table, clearing dishes, washing dishes, etc. One mom made flowers to go on top of each Popsicle stick. This vase of "flowers" sits atop her dining room table as a daily reminder to keep the kids involved.

  • Work for Hire. Pay an allowance of $1 per week for each year old a child is as a reward for assigned work (starting at age 5). Here's the catch - they pay for all their own desires. To make it more businesslike, if you have to clean up after them or do their chores, charge them a "maid's" fee.

  • The Big Payoff! When my sons were small, I motivated them by moving marbles from the sad jar to the happy jar anytime they did anything that would make Mom, Dad, or God glad. If they got a certain amount after dinner - usually a special activity with Mom or Dad. Or it can be a treat relating to bedtime, like a flashlight to read under the covers. Tammy sings a song about the highlights of each of her children's days while scratching their backs. Michele asks her children questions to get them talking at the end of the day, "What did you do to make God smile today?" For ideas, get Mom's Jar of Questions. Another version of this is Super Kid Tickets. Give tickets for positive reinforcement and allow them to save up tickets and redeem them just like they would at an amusement park. Tickets can be used to stretch out a child's attention span and raise their goals to larger ticket items so they learn delayed gratification, a trait which will help them soar through their teen years!

  • Make a Game of It. I used games to motivate my boys, much like Maria who sets a timer and makes cleaning up a race! She makes mealtime fun having each child pretend to be a person at a restaurant. One person is the waiter, another the hostess, and so on.

  • Date with Mom or Date with Dad. Every child, no matter what their age, loves a parent's undivided attention. The key to making this a strategic motivator is to let the child choose what to do on the date. Have a budget that is enough to get their attention. If you are working on a big attitude or behavior change, the carrot needs to be big enough to keep him or her trying.

  • Freeze. When motivating kids to "work it out" in their sibling rivalry, try freeze tag. When in conflict, my friend Tracy yells "Freeze!" and everyone has to stop exactly where they are. No one can move until the conflict is resolved. Joy brings everyone to the table and everyone shares what the issue is and what they would like to see happen to solve the issue. No one can eat until the issues are resolved! If Karen hears a negative comment, she stops the accuser and has them give out two compliments for every one negative put-down given.

  • Life Report Cards. Lynn says, “My mom always said, `Give people bouquets while they can enjoy them.’” One mom of a special needs son with a learning disability gives a Life Report Card when the school report cards come out. She gives him A’s in areas he is strong in: kindness, Lego building, and sharing. Esther has created a more God-centered reward system. Her children each have a points chart where they not only earn points for good grades and completing chores, but they get points for expressing positive character qualities like respect, good manners, and sympathy.

  • Good Morning! Jenny greets her children with this little song: “Good morning, God, this is your day. I am Your child, teach me Your way” Use birthday mornings to build esteem. Shawn climbs under the covers with her birthday child and retells the story of his or her birth and her delight to have God’s gift of wonderful them! My own mom woke us up on our 16th birthday with breakfast in bed at the time we were born.

  • Reward Growth with Opportunities for Growth. Nancy, whose son is now a divinity professor at Harvard, rewarded her children’s Bible memorization with family “mystery trips” to the zoo, a bookstore, or other fun learning site. She went out of her way to reward excellence with opportunities to learn in a more excellent setting: Christian camps, mission trips, and teaching younger students. It is non wonder that when her son went to Wheaton [Illinois] to college and was looking for a mentor he walked into the president’s office and asked the president himself – who said “yes”!

  • You Can Do It! Jaime’s little girl was anxious about being left for the Sunday school hour, so her mom began to tell her, “I know you are going to have a wonderful time. I know you are not going to cry. I know you are going to be a good girl and that the teacher will tell me super things about what a good helper you will be.” By telling her daughter the positives beforehand, her daughter began to look forward to Sunday school. Jodie’s son was homeschooled until age 11. On the eve before he was to attend “real” school, as he called it, he was a little nervous. Jodie wrote down a few Scripture passages about God’s presence and strength and tucked them into her son’s shirt pocket. The next day, anytime he was anxious, he pulled out a card and read it. Years later, as a 21-year-old college student, he is still in the habit of tucking God’s Word into his heart – not just his pocket.

    Excerpted from The Treasure Inside Your Child, copyright 2001 by Pam Farrell. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Or.,, 1-888-501-6991. Used by Permission.

    Pam Farrel is a pastor's wife, director of women's ministries, and the author of several books.

    Do you struggle with getting your child to do certain tasks? If so, which ones? What are some ways of motivating your child that you’ve found effective? Visit the Books forum to respond, or read what others have to say. Just click on the link below.