Boost Your Child’s Motivation…How?

Most parents have experienced the struggle of motivating their children to complete homework, do a chore, “get a job,” or any number of other things. It can become a huge exercise in frustration as parents try alternative ways of motivating their children. Sometimes we offer our children financial rewards to help motivate them. Sometimes that works…sometimes it doesn’t. But, one study found that framing those rewards differently actually boosts motivation by 50%.

In this study, participants were rewarded in one of two ways for engaging in daily exercise. One group received $1.40 each day they exercised for 30 days (they gained a reward). Another group was given $42 at the beginning of the 30-day study and had $1.40 taken away each day they did not exercise (they lost their reward). A third group was simply asked to exercise daily for 30 days (no reward). Guess which group exercised most often. You got it. The group that received a daily reward ($1.40 a day) did NOT exercise significantly more than the group that was simply asked to exercise. But the group that would lose $1.40 each day they did not exercise actually exercised 50% more days than the other two groups. The potential for losing the reward boosted motivation 50% over the potential of gaining a reward.

What does this mean for a parent? If you give your child an allowance, you might want to consider changing how you do it. Rather than giving your child their allowance at the end of the week for the work they have already done, give them an allowance at the start of the week by placing it in a jar or someplace else where they can see it. For each chore not completed, take a predetermined amount of money out of the jar. (Let them loose their reward.) Inform your children that they “paid you” to do the chore. Let them see how their money “slips away” as they neglect their chores. In other words, let them lose their reward as a consequence of neglecting their chores. Then, at the end of the week, give them what is left. The potential for losing the allowance (the reward) may just motivate them more than having to earn an unseen reward.

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