If you have tweens or teens, chances are the days of motivating them with sticker charts are long gone. But as moms with older kids, we still expect good behavior and need to learn new ways to reinforce it. Here are a few tried and true ways to motivate your tweens and teens.
Find Out What They Love
When my kids were small, I would set up rewards and consequences based on their interests. We set up a sticker chart to reinforce good behavior. When the sticker chart was full, we’d head out to the store to buy a treat, like a matchbox car or fairy wings from the dollar store. When my kids were little, these were big-time treats and they were motivated to earn them! The concept or rewarding good behavior is the same for my tweens and teen, but boy have the interests changed and I bet yours have too!
Spend some time thinking about what your older kids really enjoy doing now that they’ve grown out of toys. Do they love to bake? Go to concerts? Head out to baseball practice? Shop for clothes? Make a mental note of their hobbies and likes and think about how you can use those things to motivate them.
Use Electronics/Screens to Motivate Teens
When you think about things your tweens and teens enjoy, I bet the first thing you think of is an electronic device of some sort! Whether it’s a video game, cell phone, tablet, computer, or some combination, older kids love their screen time. This is an incredible motivator for teens and tweens.
Tweens and Teens Want to Spend Time with You!
One of the biggest motivators for my kids is simply getting to spend one on one time with me or my husband or both. This may be because we are a family of 6 and there isn’t much one on one time to be had. But, my guess is that even for smaller families, schedules are so busy with parents’ work and kids’ school, homework, activities, and friends, there isn’t much dedicated one on one time either.
So, in my house, we use one on one time as a reward! This is my favorite reward because #1. I am constantly surprised and elated when I find out my often eye-rolling tweens really do enjoy spending time with me and #2. I really enjoy hanging out with them and connecting with them away from the busyness of our family. So be sure to add one on one time to your list of motivators.
Design a Plan with Rewards and Consequences
Now that you are armed with your list of motivators for your tweens and teens, it’s time to build a plan around those things. Take a minute to brainstorm behaviors you would like to reward and some things that may need a consequence. Use those two lists to put some concrete rules into place. For example, “If you don’t take the trash out by 5 pm on Tuesday, you will not have access to any electronic device for the rest of the evening.” Or, “If you do your chores every day for a month (without complaining!) I’ll take you shopping for new sneakers (or makeup or out for ice cream etc…).
Be Flexible With Tweens and Teens
It’s good to have concrete rules in place, but don’t forget to be flexible when needed. It is hard to remember back that far, but I’m pretty sure I remember my teenage years being pretty difficult and confusing. If you notice your child is trying, let them know you appreciate the effort. Flexibility is also important if the consequences and rewards you set up don’t work. Tweak your plan if necessary.
Ah, how I long for the days of drawing out a simple sticker chart and hanging it on the fridge! But those days are behind me as my tweens and teen keep growing and maturing. We are definitely figuring things out as we go along, but finding out what motivates them has been an extremely effective tool for working towards behaviors I expect.