Games to Motivate your Children

Eileen Bailey

When my son was young, we used basic behavior charts. The charts had behaviors listed down the side, such as: cleaning your room, getting ready for school, or completing homework, and he received stars for reaching goals. When he had received enough stars, he was given some type of reward. The charts worked, for a while. He became bored with the idea or we would forget to add a star. Some years before, my husband had worked as a sales consultant and would use games to help to motivate sales people. We decided to adapt some of those games to help my son stay motivated. We used the general concept of the games; modified them and changed games every few weeks to avoid becoming bored. These games can be changed or modified to suit your specific situation.

The key to using these games is preparation:

1) Decide on one behavior you want to improve or change. You might want to work on talking back, getting along with siblings, social skills, completing chores or homework, or getting ready in the mornings. It is important to pick just one behavior at a time. Asking your child to change several behaviors at one time can be overwhelming and the entire effort may fall apart. Once you have seen significant improvements in the behavior you chose, keep with it for a short time, then choose one more behavior and begin the work on that.

2) Be specific about your expectations. What do you want to see as the end result? The more specific you are, the more chances of success you will have. For example, suppose you choose "completing your homework." What do you mean? Do you want homework completed by a certain time each evening? Do you want homework to be neat and put away in the schoolbag before you consider it completed? Are you including handing in homework or just completing it? (If your child has a problem handing in homework, this might be a whole separate behavior.) Write down exactly what you expect and what the end goal is.

3) Create the rules for the game. There are a few examples of games to play to help change your children's behaviors below. Using one of these, or creating one of your own, decide how the game is to be played. Again, be specific and write down your rules. If you are playing the horserace game, will your child move back if they do not complete their homework, or will they just remain on the space they are at? What happens if they complete their homework, but not in the time allowed? What happens if they complete their homework, but do not put all their supplies away and the homework is not in their schoolbag ready to be handed in?

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