Saturday, May 30, 2009


I think it is fair to assume that parents desire their children to grow up being, and ultimately becoming, confident, self-motivated individuals.

So, how in the world do you encourage such a thing!?!

Lately, I have been working working on this with my 2 1/2 year old. We have been getting into some great habits with picking up dirty clothes, independently getting dressed, "making" the bed every morning, taking dishes to the sink etc. I find that we are having great success. Instead of a "reward" I am trying to give positive praise and point out all the things that have been accomplished.

But, I know that he will not always be so willing, or easily motivated, to do so.


How do you teach responsibility to your kids?

Is it realistic to expect children to be motivated intrinsically or is that just a result you'll see after extrinsic motivation?

What kind of extrinsic motivators do you use?


Beth said...

Well, at the preschool where I work here is a sense that certain chores are "one's job," and doing what you want is conditional upon completion of these chores. Examples:

"You can't go play outside until you put your shoes on" (Our kids love being barefoot. It drives me nuts)

"You can't play with this other toy until you've cleaned up the first one."

"You may have lunch when your hands are washed."

Of course, being consistent is the key - isn't it always?

On The Go Family said...

We tell our kids they are in charge of taking care of their self, their stuff and their rooms. Like Beth said, we stress the importance of doing chores before we can play, go somewhere, etc.

It all depends on the kid. One of my children thrives off sticker charts so we do that a lot for her, especially when we're starting something new (i.e. when she was just learning how to make her bed by herself, etc)

I've heard it's better to have those stickers add up to TIME-related rewards (i.e. doing something special with mom or dad, not necessarily a reward that requires money like a new toy, ice cream, etc.) That's the ideal, though we've allowed our kids to earn toys or special trips occasionally as well.

Erin said...

Maybe kids will become more self motivated as they learn about natural consequences and cause and effect? For example, my two year old is potty training. At first, he is motivated by the fact that he loves to get treats after, and he loves our praise. After a while, he is motivated because he doesn't like the feeling of wet pants, and has learned that wet pants is what you get when you don't go on the potty instead.

I also think that some things will take until they are a lot older to be self motivated. Like when did you stop going to church because you were expected to (or it's just what your family did) and start going because you loved it? When did you start to really appreciate a clean house or the satisfaction of hard work? I think for me that just took the experience, and it wasn't something my parents could really teach me except by example.

Jes said...

Im not here yet since my baby is only almost a year still, so we just do little things like keeping toys just out of her reach by close enough where she 'can' grab them on her own and has to make the effort and etc...

I really like Erin's thoughts and comments. I think thats a really good point. :)

Also, Ive worked with disabled clients for several years, and independence is a big goal for almost all of them. We have to make a point to 'help' them be independent, and go by if they are physically/mentally cabable vs how well or fast. For example... if they physically can tie their shoes -even if they struggle and take a few attempts or longer time, be patient and let them do it alone. Help them by showing them how, but dont just jump in and take over. With your kids that are older, you can let them know that they need to ask you for help and that youre there if they need you...and help when they ask/do... but also keep in mind that sometimes if they know they can get YOU to do it they might try to make you instead, so just keep pushing that they can do it, and help them learn how... or even show them, but then make them. The key thing I have to remember is patience. Just wait and its ok if it takes a few attempts :)

Dont know if thats really all that helpful, but hopefully it is a little.

Jes said...

ps please ignore my spelling and grammer errors! I just ramble on and rarely proof-read.

Jared and Delia said...

WOw this is a great topic I think about OFTEN. I like the comments that everyone has given and it has given me a lot to think about.

I am struggling with this a bit. It seems my four year old will do almost nothing chore wise (chores as in getting dressed, brush teeth, put dishes in sink, make bed) unless there is a reward. That is how I motivate myself to get things done personally though. I work hard all day and then if I am done with my "chores" I allow myself to sit down and watch TV at night.

I have been talking to my husband about this and I think the thing that may help the most in helping our kids be motivated by intrinsic means is pointing out to them what may be obvious to us. For example...after he does his morning chores and we are all ready for the day, I am going to try to point out "Doesn't it feel good to have everything cleaned up and to be dressed and ready for the day? Now we can....(fill in the blank)" We are using rewards right now. In order to cut down TV time and treats, he needs to do his chores in order to earn that TV hour and fruit snack.

I think that Erin is right. As long as we lovingly (or at least try :)) provide extrinsic motivation without too much pressure then the intrinsic will come with time. Set up consequences good and bad. Let them experience consequences and learn for themselves while the stakes are small so they learn how to manage themselves better now, rather than when they are older and the stakes are higher. Do I sound like I am paraphrasing Love and Logic or what? :)