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Who Else Wants to Motivate Their Kids?

Melissa Taylor

I'm sick and tired of nagging my kids to do their chores, stop whining, find their own snack why are you asking me when the cupboard is right there!, stop arguing with me, practice their instrument, . . . the list goes on and on. 

Last week I'd had it. No more nagging. Take 239 on motivating with rewards.

Okay, since I'm a teacher and read research for fun, I know that intrinsic motivation (motivation from an internal desire to do well) is better than extrinsic motivation (motivation to something to do well because of something you'll get as a result.) Kids who get used to extrinsic motivation lose their internal motivators and start performing only for rewards. In my own classroom, I actually listed "personal satisfaction" as a reward and it worked. (Read this article on how using money for motivation doesn't work long term.)

However, my kids are cramping my lofty internal motivation style. They're not motivated by a pat on the back, can you believe it? At least not for certain tasks --chores, for example.

Peter Pappas recently blogged about the educational research about student motivation. He said that kids / students need these four basic elements:

Kids are motivated when they're interested in something. We've all seen our kids devour facts about dinosaurs or read the sports stats during playoffs, that's interest. I don't know about your kids but mine are not interested in chores.

Kids are more motivated with control and choice.

Kids feel they can do what they're asked to do - it's not too hard.

Kids see the social benefits in doing it - belonging, approval, etc.

At home, we can certainly make sure they have competence and even some control like when during the day to complete can be a choice. Interest and relatedness are trickier. (Shunning works for the Amish? Sort-of.) I don't think I can only do internal motivation. 

So, I'm going with external motivation, research be damned. My plan (don't laugh) is to wean them off the external motivation until they are internally motivated. Sounds good, right? I've done it before with success -- a treasure chest prize for going to kindergarten without a tantrum, a jar filled with gems for good behavior (get to pick a prize out of the box when full,) and a small sticker book for going #2. (The things we do as parents!) I eventually stopped doing the reward systems and the desired behavior continued . . . mostly. 

So, it's time to pick another reward system. Here are some from Pinterest I'm considering.

Reward Systems

1. Play Money from Lil Blue Boo

 2. Technology Tickets from Ducks in a Row

3. Quarter Grumbling Jar
(Christian-themed, can be adapted to be secular or another faith.) 

4. Choose a Chore or Chore Cards 

5. Point System

6. Gem Jars

What do you think? Which would you pick?

Any advice for my not-internally motivated situation?