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Articles by Dr. Scott Turansky

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Dr. Scott Turansky

Dr. Scott Turansky offers moms practical, real-life advice for many of parenting’s greatest challenges. read bio

Character Training Step 5 Motivation – Inspire Change

Determining the right behavior is not enough. The ultimate goal is to help each child want to make right choices. Developing new character qualities involves breaking old habits. Everyone can empathize with a child who is trying to break a habit; it's not easy. When developing positive character qualities in your children, it's important to have a motivational system to help them change and succeed.

Be positive with your kids by emphasizing solutions instead of problems. In fact, receiving a parent's praise may be all the motivation that's necessary to change a particular problem once a child recognizes it and knows what to do instead. People feel good about themselves when they do the right things. That internal motivation is powerful. Encourage it whenever possible.

People occasionally ask, "Why should we reward children for doing something they should be doing already, such as cleaning their rooms?" That's a good question and can be answered when we understand the difference between internal and external motivation.

Internal or intrinsic motivation is that inner drive to do what's right, the desire to make wise choices. We want to develop internal motivation in our children. External motivation sometimes becomes the vehicle to do just that.

External or extrinsic motivation comes from outside a person. Consequences, both positive and negative, are external attempts to motivate children in the right direction. We typically view these as behavior-modification techniques. A parent might say, for example, "You can watch a video after you get your homework done," or "Clean up your room, and then you can go out and play." Behavior modification works in the short run because it allows children to have something they want if they'll do what their parents say. Unfortunately, in the long run these children often don't develop character. They learn to do good things when there is something in it for them.

The key to using external motivation appropriately is to tie character into your plan. Then you're working more deeply to shape your child's heart. The principle to remember is that external motivation is helpful if it builds internal motivation. If you give an external reward when your child completes a task, talk about the internal quality you want your child to develop and why it's beneficial. You might say something like, "You are developing thoroughness by putting those clothes away. You may go out and play now."

Take advantage of opportunities to affirm internal motivation in your children. When Jill puts her toys back on the shelf after playing with them, you may say to her, "I'll be you feel pretty good when you clean up after yourself, don't you?" This reinforces her positive feelings of accomplishment and independence.

Click here for Step 6: Follow-up – Continue to Work on Solutions

Excerpt from Eight Tools for Effective Parenting by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN. Used with permission.

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