Balancing the Carrot and the Stick – motivating your child.


You will have heard of the concept of the carrot and the stick, the issue of reward and punishment or gaining pleasure and avoiding pain. These themes are consistent throughout all studies of motivation. This post looks at how you can make sure you get the balance right between challenging your child and supporting them. A reasonably constant state of being challenged is acceptable as long as they feel supported through it all otherwise they will feel overwhelmed and their productivity level will drop.

If your child has experienced a lifetime of struggle with schoolwork and has felt challenged and not fully supported they will develop a behaviour that informs them they will fail. Their internal self talk will declare ‘No need to try at this task because you can’t do it.’ This learned behaviour will be difficult to overcome.

You also need to recognise your child’s unique personality. Some rewards and punishments could be ineffective if used on the wrong child. Establishing a competition is often considered a highly effective motivation tool but it doesn’t work if your child feels they have no chance at all of winning. Rewards don’t work if your child is incapable of doing the work. The whole basis upon which rewards work is that the child is capable but choosing not to do something. A punishment based on removing something pleasurable to your child often doesn’t motivate them at all but rather creates resentment in their mind towards you.

The skill of motivating children is a joint responsibility between teachers and parents, so one word of advice is to always keep the teacher on side through open communication and mutual understanding and respect. Don’t complain to your child about the teacher or the amount of homework set or the level of difficulty. That will just create a barrier between school and your child that they might enjoy but will be unhelpful to them. When issues arise please make direct contact with the teacher and work it out

Then the balance between home and school, between punishment and reward, between carrot and stick will be healthy and helpful.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,