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Fresh Ideas for Motivating Kids

As parents, we all know the most common ways to motivate kids: redirection, natural consequences, and time-outs, when motivating kids to correct bad behaviors; and praise, hugs and kisses, and the provision of benefits (i.e., later bed times, larger slices of pie, etc.) when motivating kids to continue good behaviors.  But are there other ways to motivate kids . . . fresh ideas to keep your parenting style from becoming trite or stale?

Start by assessing what is important to your kids.  Does Johnny love to play basketball and football?  Does he hate having to take a bath?  If so, why?  Does Janie love to read?  Does she hate doing anything that makes her sweat or get dirty?  If so, why?

Next, adapt your motivation techniques to your kids’ unique interests.  For example, if Johnny gets good grades this semester, perhaps you can motivate him to continue getting good grades by allowing him to join an intramural basketball or football team to supplement the fun he has on his school teams.  If Johnny’s grades drop, he’ll then have to withdraw from intramurals so that he can spend more time studying.  Alternatively, if Janie starts challenging your parental authority in a rude and combative manner, perhaps it’s time to “suggest” that you two spend time bonding over your beautiful flower garden.  By spending time together weeding and pruning your flower garden, you are letting Janie know that she is important to you, that it’s important to you that you spend time with her; and you can use that time to talk with Janie, try to learn what is going on inside her head that is causing this sudden need to be so unpleasant with you, and to communicate important life lessons to Janie.  As to the information you want to learn from Janie: is Janie feeling so combative because she is developing an anxiety disorder?  Is this typical early teen angst?  Is there something going on in your home or elsewhere in Janie’s life that is causing Janie stress?  As to the information you want Janie to learn from you: sometimes, you have to go through a little ick (i.e., weeding and pruning of the garden . . . or following parental directives that are frustrating or annoying) to make something beautiful (i.e., a well tended flower garden . . . or a happy, healthy adult).

As this process unfolds, you can adapt your motivational techniques to your kids’ evolving interests.  Your varying methods of motivating behavior change or behavior recurrence will keep things fresh and interesting for both you and your kids.  (It bears noting that your kids may not fully appreciate this technique until they are mature adults themselves.)

By tailoring your motivational techniques to your kids’ unique personalities, you can employ a nearly endless variety of fresh approaches to parenting.

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