By Jordan Beach, LSW – August 20, 2019

The beginning of the school year is full of excitement that helps our students start out with a fire in their souls. Unfortunately, that new excitement seems to wear off quickly, which leaves parents scrambling and struggling to look for ways to keep their children engaged.

Sometimes getting a child to complete homework after school feels like a battle we have to fight every day. What can we do to help keep some of that fire we had at the beginning of the year?

A good place to start when discussing long-lasting motivation is to help your child set goals. This is also a great learning opportunity to discuss short term goals vs. long term goals. If they have a goal of making the honor roll all year that’s great but help them break that large goal down into smaller goals. They will stay more motivated with small victories working towards their larger goal.

Rewarding your children for completing undesirable tasks is a great and easy way to help motivate them to complete their work at home. The most important thing to focus on is how you word things and the tone of voice you use.

If you tell your children, “We can go to the park after you finish your homework” it sounds a lot more enticing than “We’re not going anywhere until you finish your homework.” Your children are much more likely to respond positively to a reward with a positive tone rather than a punishment with a negative tone.

Sometimes there is pushback on the idea of rewarding your children for things they are required to do. In these situations, I like to use the analogy of an adult going to work. When an adult goes to work they complete all the tasks that are expected of them in order to receive a paycheck.

School, and sometimes even extracurriculars are considered a child’s job. They put hard work, a lot of time, and effort into these things and in order to stay motivated they need to see some form of compensation for their efforts. 

It’s also important to understand what motivates an individual child. The same type of reward will not work for all children.

Some children are super competitive so creating some form of competition will be enough to motivate them. Some kids need to feel appreciated and hear words of encouragement so positive reinforcement may be enough. Other kids are going to need physical rewards in the form of treats, small toys, activities like time at the playground, or picking a movie to watch before bed.

Every child is different which means there isn’t one solution to the question of motivation. Find what works for each child and use a mixture of methods, if necessary.

The most important thing to remember is to stay positive. Try not to punish kids for not completing tasks, rather find ways to encourage them by rewarding the desired behavior. As the school year goes on and gets busier it gets easier to let schedules slide but staying consistent will help keep your family on track to a successful year.