Anyone who has or works with kids understands how difficult it can be to motivate them to behave. Even though it's not easy, it's important, so some guidelines follow.
Things You'll Need
IMAGINE good behavior as a road with fences on either side. Beyond the fences are rocky patches, thin ice, and thorns. You want your kids to make forward progress on this road; here are three steps to help make that happen.
NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT. This is also known as punishment. Think back to those fences in our mental picture of good behavior. Those are the rules that you make to keep your kids on track. It's important to clearly inform your kids of both the rules and the consequences of breaking those rules. It's also important to follow through with the stated consequences if the kids break those rules.
EXAMPLE. You tell your kids if they turn on the TV before they finish their homework, they have to do that night's dinner dishes alone.
You are the authority, so you get to decide the rules and the consequences. Do make sure to keep your word. If the punishment is for the child to do the dishes alone, don't sneak in and help her. That undermines your position as rule maker and enforcer, and only encourages the child that breaking rules doesn't have real consequences.
POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT. This is equally, if not more important than negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement will be what inspires your kids to make forward progress down the road of good behavior instead of crossing the line or not moving at all. When your kids exhibit good behavior, reinforce it by praising them and/or offering some reward.
EXAMPLES. Your kids help one another with their homework. Tell them what great kids they are and how glad you are to have such mature, helpful children.
One kid offers to help another clean up his toys. Let her know that her kindness makes you glad and offer to bake brownies for dessert if the toys get cleaned up quickly.
A child patiently and politely puts up with a rude adult who treats him like an infant. Out of that adult's presence, tell him that you know putting up with people like that is difficult, and you're proud of the way he handled the situation. As a reward you could play his favorite game with him, or take him on a special trip.
This encouragement inspires kids to repeat the good behavior, making it less likely that they'll misbehave to get attention.
MODEL THE BEHAVIOR YOU WANT TO SEE. Kids are smart and observant. If your kids are around when you're rude to a salesclerk, they'll monkey your rude behavior. If you're gracious and kind toward them and others around you, they'll mirror that.
If you regularly use negative and positive reinforcement and model the type of behavior you want your kids to have, you'll be well on your way to motivating them to behave well.
Tips & Warnings
- Make sure your kids know the rules and their consequences--it's not very fair to punish a child who broke a rule in ignorance.
- Make sure you have the consequences determined ahead of time or else you'll be trying to come up with a punishment on the fly.
- The punishment should fit the crime. It's okay to ground your kid for a month if he has broken major rule--you want him to know how serious his bad behavior is. But smaller infractions should have lesser consequences.