Tips to Motivate Your Kids without Being Pushy

We all need motivation once and awhile to keep up with work, school, exercise and more. Kids are no different. They can also benefit with the help of motivation. As their parent, you are in the best position to pass along these lessons. As a father of 7, I’ve had my fair share of keeping kids interested and motivated in school and sports.

Here are a few of my favorite tips below.

1. Make sure you are encouraging them for the betterment of themselves, not so you look or feel good. Try to remember the end game in it all–is it to get into a good college, get a scholarship, or play varsity? Whatever it is, your child will not get there if he burns out because of your pressure. Keep it in perspective.

2. Set realistic goals. If math is not your children’s best subject, but they love it, don’t let them set the goal of being in advanced math. Instead, encourage them to try and get 90% on every assignment.  If you want your children to play soccer, but they aren’t very coordinated, don’t make varsity their goal; encourage them to just be excited about making a team.  Be realistic about what they can and cannot accomplish.

3. Celebrate their accomplishments! If they go an entire week without complaining about practice, treat them to ice cream. If they turn in every assignment, let them watch a little more television after dinner.  When your child sets a goal, no matter how big or small it is, and they achieve it, they deserve to be celebrated.

4. Be honest with yourself. Why are you making them finish the project? Why do you want them to participate in that sport? Is this for them or for you?  Be sure you are encouraging them for the right reasons.

5. Don’t quit without a good fight. Don’t let your child give up after the first battle. If your child has committed to a team, a play, or a project that cannot continue without his/her participation, your child needs to follow through on the commitment. Otherwise, encourage your child to continue and give things a little longer to settle down. Maybe your child needs a friend or a victory. Look at the circumstances of why he or she wants to quit. Is it just because they aren’t the best on the team or is it because they are scared of what they need to do, or do they simply just hate it? There is no hard and fast rule about when is a good time to quit; each individual situation needs to be looked at and taken into consideration.

6. For children who really love what they’re doing, let them be the driver. If they want to take an extra lesson so they can make the top team, let them. If they want to be in accelerated courses, let them. It is hard to push kids too hard if they are driving the cart. Present the options that you and your family are able to pursue and let them choose whether they want to do more or less than what they are already doing.

7. A little bribery may be okay. I know parents who pay for certain grades or reward a successful swimming lesson. This behavior is different for each family. Sometimes, bribing through the hard times (like getting over a fear of the water) will result in a competitive swimmer who ends up loving the water. Sometimes, it just results in a kid who performs for a reward. Figure out what you want your final result to be, and keep those rewards and bribes in check.

8. If your children suddenly hate something they have recently loved, you are probably pushing them and they are afraid of letting you down.  Read your child’s body language, listen to what he or she is saying and don’t be afraid to ask.  Each one of my children told me they were afraid to quit swimming (my college sport) because they thought I’d be disappointed in them. Make sure they are doing the sport because they want to, not because they think YOU want them to.

9. Encourage and praise them. They have a coach or teacher to correct their faults, and as parents we should be there to support them.  They don’t need you to remind them of the strike-out or the missed tackle. Keep a relationship with your child that is honest, open, and respectful.

10. Never yell at them during the game. Nothing ruins a kid’s game or makes others feel worse for a kid than when a parent demeans them or berates them during a game. Shout words of encouragement and cheer them on.

Good luck!

Daddy Nickell


Daddy Nickell, father of 7, founder of and the DaddyScrubs parenting blog.


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