With parents it seems that one of the many, many difficult tasks of parenting includes figuring out what motivates your child.  I’m talking about how you decide to apply consequences or rewards.  Parents often say they’ve tried everything or that nothing seems to matter to their child.  You’ve taken away outside time or TV Time or the cell phone but nothing works so now what?

What you think is a motivator is not what your child thinks is a motivator.

You know how when someone gives you a gift and they basically give you what they would want not what you would want.  Same concept.  Maybe you think taking away the Xbox is a great deterrent but your kid – maybe not so much.  If your child doesn’t really care about the Xbox then they aren’t going to change their behavior to avoid losing time on it.

Someone once told me they didn’t understand why their child wouldn’t do their work at school because if the work was completed the child got a sticker.  Well, I think the child didn’t really care if they got a sticker.  Think of it this way.  You are at work and finishing your day.  Your boss asks you to stay late.  Unfortunately they can’t give you any extra pay to stay a couple of hours late but if you stay – you’ll get a snow cone when you leave.  You think –weird but whatever.  You think you don’t mind helping out this time.  A few days later your boss asks again.  Same deal.  Well you had a tough day today and just don’t feel like it.  Extra money may have motivated you but today the snow cone isn’t going to do it.

Same with your kids.  If the motivation doesn’t matter to your child then it won’t be an incentive for desirable  behavior or a deterrent  for undesirable behavior.

Ask yourself what your child really enjoys?  Take yourself out of the equation.  How many times do you not want to take something away from your child because it will be more of pain for you or you think that it will be too big for the child.  For example if the only thing that motivates your child is playing basketball or being in band or going to a friend’s – these are the things that will make a difference and matter.  It is OK if your child misses a basketball game because they can’t get it together.  (I also am a huge proponent in earning back privileges but that is for another post on another day.)

Pay attention.  Be creative.  Rewards don’t have to be monetary based.  It can even be time spent with you.  (My experience is this is the number 1 thing kid’s are craving.)  If you are struggling figuring it out you may also check out the book 5 Love Languages of children by Gary Chapman.  There is an online quiz  for children  and for teens.

You know your child better than anyone so you will figure out what is important to them.  I just want to remind you (because I know you aren’t telling yourself) that you are doing a great job!