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Using everything from reward charts to allowances, parents have been tying chores to rewards for decades. But is that truly the best way to motivate children? It's not so clear. Giving kids rewards can cause them to be motivated by the reward rather than the behavior we hope they develop. Giving kids rewards for something they are already motivated to do can even decrease their intrinsic motivation – an effect called overjustification.
When it comes to chores, your goal is probably for your child eventually be able to do them independently. After all, when is the last time that someone gave you money for doing the laundry? (But it would be nice, right?) Use these tips if you want to motivate your child to do chores without relying on external rewards:
Have realistic expectations
Ask kids to do too much, and they'll quickly turn away from chores. Start with just one chore and focus on making it part of their routine. For toddlers, that might be putting a toy away after playing with it. Use these guidelines to help you determine what's appropriate for toddlers and preschoolers. For older kids, these recommendations will give you an idea of where to start.
Uncover the why
When kids understand why we do chores, they are more likely to help. For example, you can explain that we pick up our toys so that they don't get broken. No one likes broken toys, right? When kids realize that cleaning helps us stay healthy and keeps our possessions in good shape, they have an easier time understanding the importance of doing chores.
Talk about teamwork
Kids are naturally empathetic and want to help. Talk about the fact that when you all work together, you can get through chores quickly and efficiently. Instead of making chores feel like punishment, find ways to make them fun. Put on some upbeat music and dance around together between chores, and then marvel at the results of your hard work.
Many kids are motivated by doing things that older kids do. Tell your child that when they do chores independently, they are showing that they can be trusted with more privileges. For example, if your child puts away his toys without asking, you may be more inclined to buy him another toy because you know he'll take care of it. Note that this isn't the same as giving your child a new toy as a reward for doing chores! It simply reinforces the fact that doing chores is one way for your child to demonstrate independence and maturity.
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