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Many parents worry about how to motivate their children to do various activities. On many occasions we hear, 'it's that he doesn't like anything' 'it seems that you have to force him' 'if I don't give him anything in return he doesn't do things'.
Most of the time and, especially during the school year, the motivation to study can be the most worrying thing for parents and many times we make the mistake of punishing or rewarding excessively when we want to motivate children. However, Children can be motivated without rewards or punishments.
'If you do your homework quickly and I'll buy you some stickers' is a strategy that many parents can adopt to motivate their children, and although it is an easy and quick resource, it is not effective and does not serve the purposes we have.
Motivation is what drives us to do certain actions, to achieve our goals and objectives. And depending on those goals, the motivation will be more or less intense. If we use rewards or punishments with children, we are reinforcing a type of extrinsic motivation, that is to say, it is the external consequences that move the child to perform a task. And be careful, this type of motivation is not bad, but it cannot be the only one, since the day the prize disappears, or it is not immediate, the motivation disappears.
To motivate the child, it is important to reinforce, which does not mean that a prize must necessarily be given. We can reinforce in many ways, and emotional reinforcement is almost always the most effective. If our child is not very good at mathematics, but tries hard and gets a 5, we must show him that we are happy and proud and that we are convinced that he will be able to get another 5. We are valuing the child's effort, and adapting requirements to its characteristics.
Something fundamental for the child to be motivated, is that the goal or objective that he intends to achieve is realistic and adjusted to its characteristics and capabilities at that time. Sometimes parents and adults set the bar very high thinking that this is what will motivate the child, but on the contrary, it can be totally counterproductive.
Setting a goal that is too difficult to achieve will not motivate the child more, but rather make him think that he cannot reach it. So it is very important to establish achievable goals and gradually increase the difficulty as the child can do more. In this way the child looks capable, and the satisfaction of achieving goals and objectives is what will make us have children motivated by tasks.
Something very important also when we talk about motivation, is to attend and how children learn. No two children are the same, nor do they all learn in the same way, so proposing activities that fit their learning styles is also essential when it comes to developing positive motivation towards homework.
This is closely related to the school and the teaching style, but from home we can also adapt to those styles, and let children learn in a way according to their styles. More visual children for whom a video or presentation with images will help them retain information, children who need to learn by doing or drawing or moving, etc.
Regarding rewards or punishments to motivate children, It is not so much about giving things away or taking them away if they do not do things, but about positively reinforcing the child and help him and support him to achieve his goals, so that he sees that he is capable, and that we trust him. And if he achieves his goals, why not give him a small prize?
A surprise, something that is not expected but that makes him see that we have seen what he has achieved. For example, if after a school year passing math and doing his homework by himself, we take him to a theme park or have a picnic at his favorite place, it is not "harmful", it is a reward for the effort made. Therefore, awards yes, but as a reward for an effort, not as a goal to be achieved.
As for punishments, it is better to avoid them if we want to motivate a child to do a task. We must avoid falling into the temptation to withdraw from his favorite extracurricular as a consequence of not reaching a goal, since we can achieve the opposite effect, and increase the reluctance and lack of motivation of the child.
In summary, some guidelines to motivate children without rewards or punishments can be:
1- Help you set realistic and achievable goals and objectives.
2- Propose tasks that arouse their interest.
3- Positively reinforce your achievements.
4- Have reasonable expectations of them and not demand of them for what we want, but for what they can give.
5- Give them autonomy to achieve those goals by themselves.
6- Take into account their learning styles and abilities.
7- Teach them to enjoy success when they get it and value the effort of trying something even if they don't.
8- Avoid blackmailing the child as a way to motivate him, 'if you get notable I will buy you the console'.
In short, it is about teaching children the value of working to achieve our goals and enjoying the process and the very reward that is achieving what we have proposed or the satisfaction of having tried.
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