Tips for Motivating Children to do their Jobs

Common Situations

  • Do you dread getting your children to do all of the things they need to do?
  • Are you tired of reminding them to do their chores?
  • Do you wonder how you can motivate them to complete their tasks without your help?


The Tip

character with thumbs upIf so, today’s tip may be just the answer you are looking for:

Use clear instructions, encouragement and praise to motivate children to do chores.

How it Works

Be Clear

First, make sure your children really understand:

  • what they need to do.
  • how they need to do it.
  • what constitutes a job well done.

Often children want your help because they are unsure about what they should do and how to do it. They need your clear instructions in order to proceed.

At the beginning, you may need to work with your children before they are ready to work on their own. It can take a while, longer than you’d expect or like, before they are ready to work independently. Be patient.

Encourage them

Next, help your children to know and understand what the benefits are to them of becoming more responsible.

The benefits can be internal, such as in the good feelings that come from getting a job done.

For example, a parent might say to a child,
“You can feel proud knowing you were a big help with the chores today.”

Benefits can also be external, such as seeing a clean kitchen sink. If allowance or money is attached to completion of the chore, then that can encourage their cooperation.

In addition, as children become more responsible, they can have more say over when and how they complete a task. This can also motivate kids to act responsibly.

For example, once children learn to cook for themselves and clean up after themselves, they can decide what they eat and when they eat it.

These benefits, both internal and external, can serve as encouragement for your children to complete their tasks. Make sure to point out the good results that will come their way.

Praise them

Finally, praise your children for each step they make towards becoming more responsible. You can do this by breaking down each larger task into smaller pieces.

For example, while a young child may not be able to organize all of his toys, you can praise what he was able to do:

“You did a really great job of putting all of your books on the shelf. Thank you so much. Now, let’s grab the puzzles.”


Closing Thoughts

Be there to support, encourage and praise your children. For some, it can take a long time till they can work on their own. But know that with patience and persistence, they will get there.

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Parenting Tip: Ignore Whining

The Situation

sign saying "This is a no whining zone"Parents frequently ask, “How can I get my child to stop whining?”

It feels like kids whine a lot about doing chores, wanting to go to their friend’s house NOW, not having certain clothing or toys,…

The list goes on and on.

The Tip

Today’s tip will help put an end to all that whining:

Teach children to use a regular voice by ignoring the whining.

I know, you are probably thinking it is easier said than done. But it will work if you stick with it.

Why Kids Whine

Often children’s whining is their way of letting you know about a need or a want. Unfortunately, it is a way of talking that can drive you nuts because kids don’t give up and because of the tone of voice is so annoying.

You know the one, that sing-songy way that sounds as if they are crying with words:

“But m…o…o…m, I need to go to Michele’s house now.”

Are you all cringing just thinking about it?

How this Tip Works

  • When your child first starts to whine, you can say, “I cannot hear you when you whine. You need to use a regular voice to tell me what you want.”

  • If your child continues to whine, repeat your request again, “I need you to use a regular voice.”

  • You can demonstrate what you mean. You can say, “A regular voice sounds like this…’Mom, can you take me to Michele’s house now?’”

  • Tell your child that it is hard for you to understand what he wants when he is whining.

  • If the whining persists, let your child know that you will listen when he is ready to speak in a normal voice. In this way, you are encouraging your child to stop and think before he speaks. You are also teaching him that you want him to speak to you in a less irritating way.

You can do all this while remaining calm but firm.

Closing Thoughts

When your child does use a regular voice, be sure to acknowledge and praise him. Let him know how much easier it is for you to hear his wishes when he speaks in a more pleasant way.

And remember that just because he does use a regular voice does not mean you have to give in to his requests; you can still hold firm to your expectations.

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Parenting Tip: Fair Does Not Mean Equal

The Situation

Are you ever drawn into your children’s fights over who got more?

Do they whine that the other got off “easy”?

Do you hear endless cries of “It’s not fair”?


The Tip

Here’s a tip which can help:

Teach your children that “fair” does not mean “equal.”

Why Kids Care about Equal

Developmentally, children are into equality. They often want whatever others have and they want the same amount.

  • Younger children may want the same privileges as older siblings, like having a later bedtime.
  • Older children may complain that less is required from a younger sibling, like not expecting them to help clean up.
  • And one may grumble when you may spend more time with a child who is preparing for a big test, only to have the tables turn the next week when you spend more time with the first child who is practicing for a school play.


A Time to Teach

sign that says fair is not equalWhen you hear these complaints, you can teach your children that everyone in the family is treated fairly (although not necessarily equally) based on his or her needs and age.

  • An older child being allowed to stay up later is fair because physically the child may need less sleep and because certain privileges come with age.
  • The younger child may have easier chores because he does not have the ability to do more.
  • And you focus extra attention on the one who needs it when he needs it.


Additional Thoughts

While in the midst of your children’s protests about fairness, you can let them know you understand how they are feeling. Acknowledge their disappointment and listen to their complaints.

But rather than trying to make things exactly the same, teach your kids that your family treats each of them fairly based on what each one needs and who each child is.

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Parenting Tip: Work Together as a Team

It’s Difficult

hands holding up letters T-E-A-M

Given how hard it is, is it really THAT important that you agree?


The Problems

Disagreements can cause conflict between parents and confusion in children. They also give kids an opportunity to play parents off one another. This further inflames the situation and often results in inconsistent parenting policies.


The Tip

If you find yourself having major differences of opinion with the people who are involved in raising your children, then the following tip will be useful.

In important matters, find ways to work together as a team.

Here are some guidelines for creating a good parenting partnership:

  1. Set aside a regular time to talk about your goals, any concerns you have, and any new approaches you would like to try.

  2. Remember to use healthy communication skills – listen respectfully and express your views without blaming or criticizing the other person.

  3. Aim to agree on the bigger issues that reflect basic values, such as your general approach to discipline, your views about education, or the way people in your family are expected to treat one another.

  4. Work towards a compromise that all are comfortable with, even if total agreement is not possible.

  5. You can agree to disagree on smaller issues.


An Example

Let’s say you want to start paying your children for doing household chores and you aren’t sure that your parenting partner is on board:

Explain to your partner why you think this is important and what will be involved in starting it.

Ask for and listen to reactions so that you understand your co-parent’s point of view.

If there is strong disagreement, try to find a compromise. For example, your kids will still need to do certain chores for “free” as part of being a household member (maybe clearing dishes from the table). Only those tasks that are “over and above” will be paid for (such as cleaning out the pantry).

If your partner does not want to be involved but is not opposed to the plan, ask for support. Have your co-parent communicate to the children the importance of doing chores so that your efforts are not undermined.



Parents do not have to agree on every small decision regarding their children. Kids benefit by learning flexibility. As they see that different people do things differently, they will adjust. There may be “mommy’s way” and “daddy’s way” and “grandma’s way” . . .

However, on the bigger issues, having a “unified front” is the best way to teach the values you want to pass on to your children.

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Parenting Tip:
Teach Children to be Generous by Giving to Charity

words associated with charityWhen my children were growing up, I took such pleasure if they shared a toy or showed concern for an upset friend.

I wanted them to become adults who were kind and could make the world a better place. But I wasn’t sure how to make this happen.

If you want your kids to be concerned about others, this tip can help:

Make your children aware of others’ struggles by giving to charity.

You may think that your children are too young to get involved, but if done carefully, even young children can grow from such activities.


Children Benefit by Helping Others

Children experience the good feelings that come from knowing they have helped.

They feel important and capable because they see that they can make a difference in their world.

As they think about situations beyond themselves, they become less self-absorbed and more grateful for the things they have.


Children Need to be Taught How to Help

Most children are naturally self-centered and often are less giving than their parents would like them to be. Children need to be taught how to act generously.

To lead your children to be more kindhearted, you can guide them in charitable giving:

  • First, offer choices of charities that match their interests. My daughter loved animals so she donated to a local pet shelter.

  • Second, with younger children, the recipient may need to be clear. For example, you could bring canned goods to a local food kitchen so the children actually see where the donation is going.

  • Next, remember there are ways to give other than money. You can encourage your children to volunteer their time for a cause. My son was fascinated by sharks, so he volunteered his time at a local aquarium. Another child who is interested in the environment could participate in a community clean-up project.

  • Lastly, let your children know when you donate to a charity, either with your time or money. Modeling is one of the most important ways that parents teach their children how to behave.

    Talk about why you have chosen a particular charity. Discuss how your contribution will help and how you feel when you make such a donation. If appropriate, bring your children along when you donate your time to a cause you care about.

Children of all ages can benefit by learning that the more they give to others, the more they “get” – in terms of good feelings and knowing that they have made a difference in their world.

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Parenting Tip: When possible, allow children to make choices.

the words yes and noHave you ever wondered how you can encourage your children to cooperate with you and become more responsible?

If so, then today’s tip will be helpful to you: When possible, allow your children to make choices in matters that affect them.

But many parents are skeptical about the wisdom of this. After all, they ask:

Won’t it undermine my authority?

Shouldn’t my children do what I tell them to do?

Why should children have input into what happens in the household?

Actually, by offering choices in areas that you are comfortable letting go of control, you will increase your authority in areas in which you want to have the final say. By not getting caught up in the small details of life, your children will know that when you do set a limit, you mean business.

And children are more likely to go along with a rule, a chore, a plan when they have had a part in deciding it. They become more invested in its success and are more likely to act responsibly. As they see that they can influence the things that happen to them, they feel better about themselves and their ability to cope with the world.

There are some cautions, however:

  • Only offer choices that you are comfortable with, so that whatever your child chooses is alright with you. For example, don’t give an option of a sleep-over if that does not work into your schedule. Or, don’t make it seem that your children can choose to wear whatever they want if there are some things in their closet that you think are inappropriate for the occasion.
  • With young children who might become overwhelmed with too many options, you can offer 2 simple choices: “Which would you rather have with your cereal – blueberries or strawberries?”

Giving choices allows children to practice the important skill of decision-making which helps them become more independent. They are more likely to cooperate when they have been listened to and their input has been respected.

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Parenting Tip: Allow Children to Make Mistakes They can Learn from

mistakes misspelledHave you ever watched your child on the edge of making a mistake? It plays out in slow motion. Perhaps it is something small like trying to pick up too many things at once and having everything slip out of his hands. Or maybe, it is something larger, like spending all her birthday money on a trendy item that you know will fall apart the first time it is worn.

If these scenarios are familiar to you, then this tip will be helpful: Allow your children to make mistakes that they can learn from.

Because parents want their children to be successful, most try to protect their kids from missteps that can lead to disappointment, frustration, or failure. Parents may repeatedly take forgotten homework to school, replace a toy that has been ruined because it was not properly cared for, or try to convince a child to make a wiser choice.

You may know from your greater experience the better action for your children to take. However, rescuing them from poor decisions deprives them of opportunities to learn coping skills to deal with life’s challenges. There are a few things you can do to help your children grow from their mistakes:

  • Let your children know that it is alright to make mistakes, that they do not have to be perfect and that making mistakes is part of being human.

  • Help them see what mistake they made and how they can avoid it in the future.

  • Teach them to be kind to themselves when they make a mistake. Be supportive of them as you both use it as a learning experience.

  • Be a role model for being kind and forgiving to yourself when you make mistakes.

Allowing your children to slip-up in a supportive environment is a gift you can give to them. You can help them grow and bounce back from mistakes. These attitudes will help build resilience.

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Parenting Tip: Don’t Ask a Question if “No” is Not an Answer

Think about how many questions you ask your kids in a given day – especially when you are trying to get them to do something. Questions like:

  • “Honey, will you brush your teeth now?”
  • “It’s time to do your homework, okay?”

When trying to get their kids to do the things they should be doing, like making their beds or doing other chores, parents often resort to asking for their kids’ cooperation.

a slash through a question markWhat would happen if you asked your kids, “Do you want to clean your room now?” Hmmm. Let’s see, yes or no? It would be nice to think that your kids would respond, “Yes, Mom. I’ll do that right away.”

But chances are, given the choice, they are much more likely to say “no.” Now you’ve backed yourself into a corner.

So today’s tip is: Don’t ask a question if “no” is not an acceptable answer.

Often parents phrase their demands and expectations for their children in the form of a question because it feels nicer to ask – rather than to tell – children what to do. And that is true.

There is a time and a place to ask for things in a polite manner, like “Do you want to read another book before lights out?” or “Would you like to wear your red shirt today?” And, you should use such questions whenever your children actually do have a choice in the matter.

But there are also times when you really want or expect your children to do something or behave in a certain way. In those cases, don’t ask a question to which “no” is not going to be an acceptable answer.

It is much more effective to use a direct approach and state clearly what it is you want them to do. For example, you can say: “I need you to clean your room before your friend comes over.”

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Parenting Tip: Parent with the big picture in mind

A dad leaning over helping child with homework

Have you ever wondered how you could turn helping your kids with their homework into something more elevated than just teaching them reading, writing, and math? Without understanding that you can use the opportunity to instill important values in your children, getting your kids to do their homework can feel like pure drudgery.

But if you keep in mind that how you approach your children on any issue, even how they do their schoolwork, will ultimately influence what kind of adults they are going to be, you can do a lot more than just get them to finish their work.

So, today’s tip is: Parent with the big picture in mind.

It is true that as you guide your children in completing homework, you are teaching them specific academic skills related to the assignment. However, while you are doing that, you can also teach them how to approach life with balance, to be organized, to delay gratification, to be responsible, and at the same time, to find enjoyment.

With this long-term view, you can approach the day-to-day steps of doing homework, guiding them, and even practicing instruments and finishing nighttime rituals, as part of the larger picture. Any interaction with your kids can be an opportunity to develop the character traits you would like them to have.

Parents usually find a great deal more satisfaction when they keep in mind the bigger vision of raising happy, successful, caring and responsible adults.

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Parenting Tip: Choose Chores that Fit your Child’s Interests

This tip revolves around that dreaded “C” word – chores.

Do your children have assigned chores to do around the home? Are they doing them?

Mkids helping out and doing chores in kitchenany parents find that chores can be a real source of angst, with parents spending most of their time reminding, nagging and even begging their kids to do them, while their kids are doing everything possible to avoid them.

To make the whole chore process work more smoothly, choose chores that fit your child’s temperament and personality. I have three very different children and, not surprisingly, they are also very different when it comes to preferences for chores.

So how can you discover which chores will be best for your children?

You may want to start by asking them for input to find out what chores they don’t mind doing and which ones they would really prefer to not have on their list. The bonus here is that when kids are given some choices in the matter, they are much more likely to stick with any decisions made.

Think about what makes each of your children unique. Here are some things to consider:

  • Are your children generally active or do they prefer quieter activities? I have a daughter that never seems to sit still. I discovered that chores that allow her to
    move around, like carrying dirty clothes to the laundry room and vacuuming, are more likely to get done versus those that don’t require as much movement. My youngest son, on the other hand, prefers activities that are more sedentary. For him, clipping coupons out of the Sunday newspapers proves to be a good fit.


  • Next, do your children prefer to do things alone or with others? My oldest son prefers to work alone without help, so his list of chores includes things like mowing the lawn and taking out the trash. My youngest son, however, likes to be with others, plus he often requires help with chores, so he gets called to work with me when it is time to sort and fold the laundry.


  • Next, think about what interests your children have and how that can be combined with doing chores. My daughter loves animals so she agreed to take on the task of feeding and walking the family dog. My oldest son loves music so he tunes in while washing the dishes. My youngest loves cooking and is an eager helper with preparing meals.

Other things you can consider are whether your children like to do things at a set day/time or do they like things to be more random? Would they prefer the same chore over and over, or do they like variety?

When you take the time to identify chores that match each of your children’s unique personalities, then you are helping to set the stage for success and you are more likely to get cooperation from your children.

Now keep in mind that this probably will not eliminate all of your kid’s complaints about doing chores. Kids will still be kids, but in the end, you may find that when it comes to actually doing the chores, your children may be a little less resistant to doing those that fit their personalities.

By Deanna Bosley, Certified Parenting Educator

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