Don’t we all just run out of ideas from time to time for how to get our kids to address troublesome behaviors? Motivation systems can go a long way to help homeschoolers target specific behaviors upon which children need to focus. They are particularly effective with young children, and children who struggle with attention/focus issues. Once you have the principles of homeschool motivation systems in place, you can create systems that are as individual as your family. The following are some examples of motivation systems that can be used in the home, and the behaviors they address:
- Star chart or sticker chart – These work well for chores. Set up specific chores that the child is responsible for. Write or type them on a chart (or use pictures for children who cannot yet read) for each day of the week. Have the child put a star or sticker next to the chore he/she completes. Determine the number of stars the child must have by the end of the week to choose a prize or motivator.
- Smiley face motivator – These are effective for addressing multiple behavior areas for young children. Create a large round face with a smiley on one side and a frowny face on the other. Laminate the face and put it on the refrigerator with a magnet, or hang it from a doorknob with a string. When the child demonstrates obedience, kindness, or other positive qualities, have the child turn the face to the smiley side. When he/she demonstrates disrespect or disobedience or other negative qualities, have the child turn the face to the frowny side. When the child’s face is on the smiley, he/she can access privileges such as playing with toys, listening to music, etc. When the child’s face is on the frowny side, he/she must do practices in the area of the infraction (or receive some other consequence) until the child is able to demonstrate the positive behavior qualities again.
- Journey chart – These can help children accomplish longer-term goals, such as practicing music daily over a period of time, or finishing a large project. Draw a mountain or road on poster board, and a mountain climber or a small car cut-out. Use Velcro to attach the mountain climber to the base of the mountain, or the car to the beginning of the road. As the child practices the piano or completes one part of his science project, move the climber up the mountain or the car to the next space on the road. When the mountain climber reaches the top of the mountain, or the car finishes the journey, the child gets a large reward.
- Ticket chart – Purchase raffle-style tickets (the kind that come on a large roll) from Wal-Mart or similar store. Determine the specific skills you are wanting your child to work on (truthfulness, responsibility, kindness, diligence, etc.). Each time the child demonstrates that skill, he/she earns a ticket. Put all of the tickets into a jar. When the child gets a pre-determined number of tickets, he/she gets to go out to a movie with Mom or Dad.
- Marble jar – This system works well to avoid the “how much more school work do I have to do” questions, and encourages independent working. Put the number of marbles in a cup or jar for each child that correspond to the number of assignments the child must complete on that school day. Each time the child finishes an assignment and checks in, he/she gets to take a marble out of the jar. When all the marbles are gone, school is finished.
- Tag necklace – This system is helpful for chores. Purchase tags (round, rectangular, or other shape) that have a hole in them. These can be found in scrapbook departments of Wal-Mart or places like AC Moore or Michaels. Write one chore that needs to be done around the home on each tag. In the morning, string the tags with the chores each child is responsible for on a string or leather strap and put it around the child’s neck. When the child has complete the chore, he/she checks in with a parent and then the parent takes that tag off the string. The child is finished with his/her chores when all of the tags have been taken off the string.
- M&M jar – This can be effective for addressing multiple behaviors. The child earns one M&M for positive behaviors or skills (which is put in a jar), and loses one M&M for negative behaviors. At the end of the day, the child is allowed to eat whatever M&Ms are in the jar.
- Pieces of the Puzzle – This is useful for addressing specific skills or behaviors within a relatively brief period of time. Choose a behavior or skill that is the target of focus (good options would be doing schoolwork diligently without complaining, completing morning chores without being asked, reading a book by oneself, etc.). Print out a large picture of the reward the child is working for (such as a desired toy) , and cut the picture into small pieces, in order to make a puzzle. Each time the child demonstrates the target behavior or skill, he receives a piece of the puzzle and tapes it onto a board. When the child has earned all of the pieces and they are all assembled, the child earns the reward.
- Clothespin on the visor – This idea motivates children to behave appropriately in the car. Place a clothespin on the passenger’s side visor. In each clothespin put either a photo of the child or a piece of paper with the child’s name on it. Go over expectations for the children’s behavior while they ride in the car. If they behave appropriately, their clothespin stays on the visor. If they do not, their clothespin is removed. Whoever has their clothespin still attached to the visor once the destination is reached receives a piece of gum, mint, or other small reward.
- Chore jar – The chore jar works well for a variety of problematic behaviors. Put a variety of undesirable chores on strips of paper, and then put the strips of paper in a jar. Each time the child is unkind, disobedient, or displays other undesirable behavior, he/she must choose a chore out of the jar and complete it. The child continues completing chores until he/she displays appropriate behavior.
These are just a few of the kinds of homeschool motivation systems you can create in your home. Be creative! By using the principles of motivation systems, and incorporating motivators and consequences that matter to your children, you can develop a one-of-a-kind system that will help you address a variety of issues. Forget nagging, reminders, or yelling in favor of reinforcement and follow-through – and watch your children ‘s behavior flourish!