Counseling Corner: Motivating your children to do more

Healthy mind body soul t580
Healthy mind body soul

American Counseling Association

Children can be amazing. They develop new cell phone apps, set athletic records, volunteer with the elderly and perform lots of good deeds. Unfortunately, much of the time it seems these are someone else’s children.

For many parents, the reality is children sleeping until noon, buried in video games or so busy monitoring social media that they only surface for meals. This is even more obvious now with children on summer vacation and no longer disappearing to school where we at least assume they are accomplishing something positive.

So how can a parent get the child in their home to be more active, or at least to contribute more to the household?

A first step in that direction is simply to decide what your realistic expectations are for your child. If there are constant arguments and shouting about what isn’t being done, what actions by your child would limit those arguments and make you all feel better?

The answer lies in specific goals, not just broad generalizations. Your starting point should be to negotiate some activities with your children that will achieve something worthwhile and specific for your home and your child. You want to replace inactivity with positive accomplishment.

One simple goal might be to have your child take on one or more household chores – maybe unloading the dishwasher, walking the dog each evening or doing 30 minutes of yard work each day. Or it might be a positive growth activity, like reading books or getting a certain amount of daily exercise.

It helps to have a structure for these activities. Set specific times or deadlines for when required activities are to be accomplished.

Step two is to provide motivation to help them want to complete the assigned chores. A negative motivation might be to cut off electronic gadget access until the assigned activity is completed.

Or a positive reward motivation could be getting an allowance, or an increase in a current allowance.If a desired reward is a major purchase, you can keep a running record of successful accomplishments with a clear goal of what’s needed to earn that purchase.

The key is to develop specific activities that move your children in desired directions and that make them feel good about doing required activities, even the most boring ones. Chores shouldn’t be punishments, but rather activities that contribute positively to the family, household and child him or herself.

Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Comments and questions can be sent to or visit


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