If it feels like you are in the midst of battle just to get your kids to do their homework, make their beds or empty the trash can, chances are, you have already lost the war. Instead of ending up in a frustrated rage over the simplest things, try taking control in a positive way. The key to success is to be proactive, positive and fun.
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Start Young and Train Your Toddler
Even as a youngster, kids can be taught to put their toys away. When they are toddlers, it is easy to make a game of the task. When playtime is over, children as young as one-year will help put toys away when they perceive it as fun. First, establish a place where toys belong.
Whether it is a toy box, a shelf or a basket, let your child know, “Here’s where we put our toys when we are done.” Make a game of it. Get on your hands and knees and make fun noises and say, “Let’s see who can pick up the most toys.” Kids love it. When the space is clean, reinforce the positive behaviour. “Great job, look what we did!” Most toddlers love games and they bask in the verbal praise. And, even better, you just started training your teenager to clean her room.
Ramp It Up As the Child Grows
As your child grows older, being aware of what your child’s likes, dislikes and interests are will allow you to establish parameters that will keep behaviour on the positive side. Using positive reinforcement is a smart way to ensure that the behaviour you want to see continues.
For example, elementary school children love to earn points, stars, circles, etc. which they can then trade-in for something else. Design a chart with paper, a pencil and a ruler. Make a list of things that they can earn. Keep things simple, i.e. trip to park with parent; make cookies on Saturday; extra time on the computer; choice of T.V. show to watch; movie day with a parent. Be careful not to make the prizes expensive things, i.e. new computer; PSP, phone. The idea is to encourage your children to do what they need to do, not to break the budget.
Teenagers Need Consistency
As your child grows from the tweens to the teen years, consistency is key to keeping them on track. Reinforcers may change, but the need for a motivational plan remains the same. Make sure that your expectations are clear, i.e. wash dishes or complete homework. Match the chore with an enforcer. For example, “If you complete your homework, you will be able to stay up a half-hour later.”
Be sure not to promise the farm. In other words, only promise what you feel is healthy and logical for you to use for reinforcement. Parents sometimes over-promise with expensive or unreasonable privileges which they later regret. Again, the secret to keeping your children on track and keeping them highly motivated and productive is to be proactive in creating a plan. Decide what you feel are the important chores that must be accomplished for the week.
Then decide what you are willing to allow if the child follows through on all of her chores. The situation can be a win-win for all involved, but it does take consistency, follow-through and a logical plan.