During my first year of teaching, I went to a few continuing education courses that were taught by New York City teachers. The most useful piece of advice I learned was about giving children choices. The instructor told us that she had a two-year old child, and instead of telling him that he had to wear a hat, she asked him if he preferred to wear his blue hat or red hat. She warned us not to give too many choices, just two or three. I used her advice right away with my students to great success. I used it with my husband, too. “Would you like to do the dishes or fold the laundry?” He quickly caught on to my tactics, but being a great guy, he went with the program. This method works very well for letting children arrange the order of tasks. “Which would you like to do first?” A sense of control helps motivate.
Once I had my own kids, I discovered another great motivator. On Wednesdays, they had Hebrew School at 5:45, a very inconvenient time. Since they arrived home from school at about 4:00, after unwinding and eating, there really wasn’t time to start homework. However, they didn’t return home until about 7:30. So before we left, we planned our homework, opened notebooks, and began the first assignment for 5-10 minutes. Then when we returned, everything was ready to go and it was easy to jump right in. This was very useful for me since getting started for my kids, and many kids, was often a challenge. I have discovered that this technique works well for people of all ages. I use it myself when procrastinating a task. Once I just get started, I often realize this it is not as bad as I anticipated, and it is easy to just continue at a later point.
How many of you reward yourself after completing a chore? I reward myself with a walk, a phone call with a friend, or a piece of chocolate. Rewards are great motivators, and they don’t have to be big. Here are some rewards to keep kids going: 15 minutes of bonus screen time or play, dollar store treasures, art supplies, books, ice cream, stickers, a jump rope, or frisbee. Many of these rewards can be earned when receiving a certain number of points, stars, stickers, or coupons for staying on task. Other rewards include baking a special treat or choosing a family dinner, family outing, or special game. The easiest and most effective reward is praise and high-fives for specific wins, such as staying focused, solving problems, and asking for help when needed.
Seeing the big picture
No one is motivated to do something that seems pointless. It important to emphasize the relevance of school work in your everyday life. Use math skills to double a recipe, estimate the cost of groceries, or figure out the mileage for a trip. Demonstrate how important reading and writing skills are for your job. (People who work for Tutoring For Success must be able to write professional looking, grammatically correct emails.) Discuss long term goals such as college and career, and what it will take to get there.
Encourage Learning for Learning’s Sake
Everyone has things that they are interested in and want to learn more about. In this day and age, we are fortunate to be able to learn about anything by watching easily searchable videos. As always, we can get books from the library or order them new or used. Full length movies and documentaries about notable people and events are readily available. Encourage your children to pursue their interests and learn more about them on a regular basis. You can bond with your children by learning together and discuss what you have learned. Sometimes, you can enhance these interests with hands-on projects and community service. The possibilities are endless.
By Cheryl Gedzelman, President, Tutoring For Success