Today I witness the beauty of watching responsibility grows in my 4.5 year old son through the power of encouragement and motivation.
I learn from our parenting class (Growing Kids God’s Way, Chapter 14 – Discipline with Encouragement) that in order to grow our child in the right character and behaviour, we need to begin with providing ‘instruction’.
Instruction is primarily needed in two areas – in cultivating our children’s gifts, skills & talents, and in modifying and encouraging behaviour in particular tasks.
Are you able to identify your children’s areas of strength that need just that extra dose of encouragement?
You begin with instruction, accompanied with goal incentives and verbal praise.
This is usually a non moral skill that you want your child to develop in, such as piano playing, swimming, biking, studies, academia…your instruction is to develop skills and not to modify behaviour.
So many skills, talents and gifts lay dormant in life for lack of cultivation, and it is part of the parent’s responsibility not only to identify the unique ‘bent’ and talent each child possesses, but also to encourage and develop it.
In Toddlerwise, the authors Ezzo and Bucknam wrote that “no wonderful gift of heredity endowment can be matured if not surrounded by the basic disciplines of life”. (pg 16). What are these basic disciplines of life? In very young children, it comes back to self control training. Self control is the ingredient needed to produce the self legislation within a child to do the right thing even in the absence of parental supervision and instruction. It is what will carry your children to obeying your instruction, to learn the focus needed for reading, to become content to concentrate on piano practice without your nagging and coaxing. Being able to focus is therefore, a skill needed for half of the victory in the educational process.
Instruction is also needed in the area of encouraging the right behaviour…in my particular case, in the introduction of a new chore skill at home.
For many days I have been plaqued with the problem of seeing my son happily escaped his area of responsibility in packing up, hoping that his older sister would pick up after him. I wonder, what do I do to encourage him to grow in responsibility, without all the nagging, begging and threatening?
I want to see my son responsible, skilled in various chores and have an uncompromising system that roots out any form of laziness in the home!
My son trying to mix and match containers with their lids on a giant beach towel spread on the kitchen floor
In trying to discern the motivation behind the action, I had to examine whether his behaviour was rooted in irresponsibility or that the task was age-inappropriate. Realising that it may be a combination of both, I resolved in my heart to introduce these new chores with lots of patience, motivation and guidance.
Providing specific praises and goal incentives will be two important sources needed to motivate my child’s heart in ultimately owning this area of responsibility.
When my son is in the pre-accountability stage, I will remind, dialogue with him about what his right responses should be, and elevate every good I see in his behaviour.
To make my praise specific and tangible, I searched on Pinterest for some easy to follow chores system for a preschooler and came up with a simple board and cards which I laminated and stuck on velcro to produce that ripping sound that every preschooler loves to hear. (For some ideas on kids chore card system, click on my board here).
When my son finishes a task, I would bring him to his chore board and ask him to select the specific chore card and I will applaud him loudly as he sticks the card onto the board, my way of affirming my delight in his progresses.
I also announced to the children that I will be giving out reward stickers for any good behaviour, great attitude and obedient hearts I see around the home. It is important that I do not link my reward to a specific chore, because my aim is to provide a post activity encouragement, which reinforces the positive behaviour after the behaviour is completed.
My praises are centered around not only the task accomplished but the progress i see in their effort and the attitude with which they carried out my instructions. The rewards are based upon the intrinsic attitude of the heart 😊
I try not to reward half hearted efforts as that would be equivalent to saying that their less-than-positive attitudes towards the task is good enough for the job.
For every 10 stickers they earn, I then reward them with a choice goodie from Mum’s special treasure box.
This is a tangible reward that they earn, although some of the other rewards may be intangible like a family date.
Using this system, I also learn to provide a reward rather than to bribe them into the right behaviour.
A gol incentive/ a reward is offered to motivate children in the areas of skills, talents, and natural, physical attributes. It is offered to reinforce behaviour, not to stimulate it.
A bribe on the other hand, is a reward used to motivate and modify behaviour. It is manipulative and is offered to satisfy the child’s lust of the eyes and flesh, and they grow dependent on receiving them to produce the expected behaviour.
The Ezzos further explained that when parents overuse rewards, the child may go through the motions of good behaviour, demonstrating outward conformity but not motivating the child from the heart, which is the place where you want to influence.
(My son picking first his reward from Mum’s treasure box for the ten stickers earned 😊. I have been blessed by his attitude in obeying me the first time and what a blessing it brings to the atmosphere of the home! )
We have a long way to learn in this area of motivating responsibility, but I am so encouraged to see the changes that are happening in the hearts of our children. What about you? How do you encourage your children in the right behaviour?