Is comparison a successful motivator for children? To be more specific, is pointing out comparisons of other children’s behavior and results, a successful motivation tool?
The truth is, children are no different than adults when it comes to comparing themselves to others. They do it themselves and they are very aware of where they are not quite “meeting expectations”. An adult/parents/teacher etc pointing this out more or less reinforces feelings of “not good enough”, “this person is better than me.” This is not to say that children cannot learn from the behaviors of others, but it is important for us to realize that no child or human is perfect, so while you may wish your child was as tidy as their sibling at the moment you walk into their messy bedroom, consider their sibling as a whole just for just a second and realize that each child has their own awesome qualities and their own imperfections.
My suggested approach to changed behavior is to demonstrate the value of changing the behavior or the impact of not changing the behavior. Here are some suggested ways of approaching this
- Really emphasize your children’s unique abilities and strengths to them regularly. Celebrate the tiniest achievements, whether that’s scoring a goal on the Xbox or doing really well on a spelling test. Also, celebrate their attitude/ approach to things as much or even more than the outcome. Building their self-worth puts them in a better place for receiving constructive feedback and acting on it.
- Demonstrate to them the value of doing the action or behavior you want them to. You can use others to demonstrate this, i.e. instead of saying “Look how good your brother is at playing the piano, why can’t you practice more like him”, try “It’s really cool how your brother has mastered that song by practicing every day isn’t it?”
- Roleplay/Make it fun. Finding out the best way to motivate your child can sometimes take lots of trial and error. A great way to find out what might work is to get them to role-play getting someone to do the desired behavior or action.
We would love to hear about any great ways you’ve found for motivating your children.