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Behaviour Management

8 Ways to Motivate Children Without Rewards

Different strokes for different folks is becoming my new behaviour policy. What works for me as a teacher, might not work for you. Ditto if your parent. Definitely, if you’re a child. The more I have studied behaviour, the more I have come to wonder why would you marry a single philosophy when there are so many options out there? Handcuffing yourself to a single set of beliefs just limits your options. Develop preferences for sure. But if your strategies aren’t serving you, the adult you’re trying to advise or the child, it’s time to change it up and try something new. As long as the approach abides by obvious ethical parameters, its an option.

Reward systems usually evoke strong opinions. Adults can love or hate them. They can rely heavily on them or avoid them like the plague. The truth, as always, lies in the middle. I wrote a piece about developing top-quality reward systems but I acknowledge they are not for everyone and different strategies are needed. But how do we motivate children to behave and learn without rewards? Here are eight different options:

  1. Providing Choice is a strong motivator. It gives ownership to students over their learning and behaviour. Depending on the situation, you can offer them a choice over what they learn, how they learn and where they learn. (More on choice here)
  2. Providing Competition motivates students. The teacher can set a challenge for the child to overcome. They can challenge a child to beat their own personal best. In the appropriate contexts, they can even pit children against their peers. Healthy competition is part of life and should be harnessed positively.
  3. Technology always is appealing to students. They will jump at the chance to achieve learning objectives using technology instead of using pen and paper. Creating their work digitally, photographically or through video will inspire them to apply themselves.
  4. Art should never be underestimated. Whether it is creating work using new and colourful stationery or reacting to a stimulus through clay or painting, children are often motivated by presenting their work artistically.
  5. Drama stirs children’s imagination. A topic such as the Vikings can be very uninspiring in a textbook, but if it is brought to life through role-play, freeze frames and conscience alleys, it suddenly becomes a world of fun and motivation to get involved.
  6. Mysteries that need solving stoke a child’s curiosity. Give them clues and the resources and support to solve them and they will work like detectives to scratch the itch and find out what the answer is. 
  7. Surprises aren’t for everyone. Some children who are anxious need predictability. Depending on your class, however, inserting novelty and surprise activities can shake off the funk children fall into if they find routine monotonous. Variety is the spice of life and it adds motivation to the mixture too.
  8. Deadlines are simple and effective. Whether you introduce a short term deadline with a radial timer or a longer-term deadline, these can motivate children to achieve task completion before the deadline runs out.

Each of these eight options provides effective motivation on their own or paired with a reward system. Incorporating them into your daily routine will prevent misbehaviour before it has a chance to arise and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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Categories
Behaviour Management Homeschool parenting

Motivate Homeschool Children Without Rewards

In a previous article, I described how a parent might go about setting up a reward system at home. The parents might decide to reward their child for behaving a certain way with something external like sweets, additional screen time, preferred activity or anything that would motivate them to cooperate. This is an effective way to increase desired behaviour but there are people out there that don’t enjoy the transactional concept of a reward system. They don’t like the mentality that their child will only learn if they get something they like in return. They want their child to want to learn. Well, if its ideas for this you are looking for, let me introduce you to a different kind of motivator.

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation can be explained as an inner motivation which is driven by the reward or enjoyment they get from doing the activity itself. Think about the child who practices a sport for hours or practices a musical instrument incessantly without any pressure from parents. This child is intrinsically motivated to engage with the activity. They do it because they enjoy doing it, the sense of achievement from doing it well and the feeling that they are improving at it.

As children pass through the school system, the dream can be that they make the shift from external motivators like praise, jellies and extra play time to this intrinsic motivation where they engage in learning because they love it.

How Can Parents Intrinsically Motivate Their Children?

Parents who don’t want to offer external rewards to their children to behave and learn, thankfully, have numerous options to help develop this self-motivation in their children. There is no magic formula but there are plenty of options:

Choice

As your child is being homeschooled, there is more opportunity to allow them to direct their learning. Allowing them to have partial (or total) say in how they learn over the next few weeks could provide that inner motivation they need to truly engage with tasks. Let them choose the books they read, let them choose the songs they learn, let them choose what countries they want to research. You can even let them choose when they want to learn completely. Giving the child ownership over their learning can be empowering and you may be surprised at how immersed in topics and activities they become.

Variety

If your child is not ready to choose their topics and schedule, variety is said to be the spice of life! Your child may be bored by the repetitive nature of the daily compulsory task which is dropping their motivation through the floor. Creativity is all that is needed to introduce variety. Instead of just demanding they read a book to you daily which results in a row, why don’t you record them reading and pretend your making a youtube video for other children? As opposed to learning about a country from a book, why don’t you encourage them to create a project or design a quiz about the country to give an adult later on? Your imagination is the limit on this one and, graciously, we also have the internet for a wealth of ideas.

Resources

Some children can loathe the idea of writing sentences in a copy, but when you give them a whiteboard and a marker, it can seem like Christmas. Providing attractive resources to engage in a task can bring a wonderful sense of joy to an activity. Children, suddenly, can take enormous pride in presenting their work when using different ranges of pencils, markers, chalks, pens, crayons and twistables or through using coloured card. If the goal is to learn about a country, does it matter if they write sentences in pencil or with marker? Absolutely not. You could even let them type their sentences if the act of writing isn’t the goal. 

Pursuit of Passions

One of the best ways of motivating children to behave and learn is facilitating the pursuit of their passions. During their homeschooling, there could be huge scope for allowing them to focus and learn about areas they are passionate about.

For example, the child who loves football could engage in his P.E through football, his reading could be about his favourite team, his maths could be adding up points in the premier league, his geography could be exploring which football teams belong to which country and his history could be about football during the world war. 

Facilitating their passions in this way could turn a stressful daily struggle to engage them in meaningful learning into an enteraining and educational process where you develop a closer bond with your child.

Intrinsically motivating children can be a tricky process of trial-and-error. It is impossible to know what will provide true inner motivation to drive them to want to engage for the love of the task and its results, but if parents are willing to put in the time thinking, planning and providing options for their child, they might just crack their magic formula for learning. 

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Categories
Behaviour Management Homeschool parenting

How to Motivate Homeschoolers

By now, a lot of parents have their children at home and have either started or contemplated starting homeschooling. There is a lot of information out there right now which can be overwhelming. I believe that the number one priority is to maintain a happy and calm environment. If your child is feeling anxious, this needs to be addressed as soon as possible and I have written about potential solutions for anxiety along with a more extensive explanation of how to use journaling for this purpose also.

However, your child may be calm and, as a parent or guardian, you may be eager to engage them with some academic learning. The question is how to do this successfully? There are general principles that teachers use to encourage positive behaviour such as providing routine and choice and using a specific language. These are key to preventing misbehaviour before it has a chance to start. The next thing that is needed is motivation.

Extrinsic motivation

You may have heard your child talking about “points” they receive in school for being good. Perhaps, they can cash in these points for some kind of reward at the end of the day or week. Maybe, your child talks about their table being crowned “The Table of the Day” and they get to have some reward for their troubles. These are examples of the teacher extrinsically motivating the children. They are offering an external reward in exchange for a behaviour.

Parents can use this concept also to motivate their child to complete tasks and behave a certain way. There are 3 key principles that are necessary to ensure successful use of extrinsic motivators:

The Reward

The child has to be motivated by the reward on offer. It is not a reward just because you think it is. Picking a true reward is a vital first step. Examples of rewards could be sweets, screen time, cooking their favourite dinner, getting to pick the movie, extra pocket money, going out with them to play their favourite game in the garden or anything that they love.

The Behaviour

Pick one or two very specific behaviours to reward and make sure the child knows what they are. Instead of rewarding “being good”, reward “sitting at the kitchen” and “answering five questions” or whatever you specifically want them to do. Once you have picked a desirable reward and one or two behaviours that the child is able to perform, you are setting yourself up for success.

The Frequency

Finally, you need to judge how often to reward your child. As a general rule of thumb, younger children need to be rewarded more frequently. If they write five sentences, they might need to get their reward straight away to maintain motivation. Older children are generally able to wait longer, so their reward could be additional time on a games console at the end of the day or even a special reward at the end of the week. The frequency of the reward needs to be decided by the parent based on their child’s ability.

Two Simple Examples of Successful Systems

Once you have decided on the three conditions above. You can decide how to package it to make it most attractive. Think of yourself as a salesperson and the more positive and excited you are about this new system, the more excited they will be! Presenting the new reward system so they can physically see their progress can be very motivating and can be very simply done with household items.

Using an empty jar, for example, you could mark a line on it with a pen or rubber band. Every time the child performs the behaviour, you could add pasta shells or lentils to the jar. Once they have filled the jar to the line, they can get their reward. The band can be made higher if you feel they can behave for longer or can be brought down lower if you feel they need to be rewarded quicker.

A jar and some lentils can help sell your system.

Here is an example of a visual way of presenting your reward system where the behaviour can be added and the reward. You may say they need to get 3-6 stars awarded depending on their age before they can get their reward.

A whiteboard or paper can be just as effective.

The opportunities are endless and you will find an abundance of options on how to “sell” your system. Make sure your three key principles are locked in first, however, as the success of your system will hinge on the quality of the reward, selection of the behaviour and the frequency of reward above all else.

Best of luck and please share any ideas you what you have found helpful so far or are thinking of trying!

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