How do I motivate my child to do simple tasks? A Montessori approach!

Lisa's brown leather couch with her cat laying next to a stuffed animal-monkey, covered with a baby blanket that is green-checkered.

"Question regarding my preschool-age child. How do I respond to him when he refuses to do things. He is a little on the lazy side and doesn’t like to help, get his shoes on, etc. I don’t help him usually, but there are struggles."

Give out daily jobs: first, you make labels with the names of the jobs, along with a little picture or drawing (it is up to you if you want to laminate them). Write one job per label. (If you don't want to make labels, try a big chalkboard or dry wipe board.) If you make labels, you need a corkboard and pushpins.

Second, have a "job time" at various times of the day. And it is best to have job time BEFORE playtime outside time and BEFORE eating snacks, lunch, or dinner, and BEFORE TV or video or DVD time. And it need only be five to ten minutes long.

Third, have your children's names above the jobs they need to do that day or time.

So... when it is job time, ring a little bell or a triangle, and go over to where your job labels are. Point to the name of the child, and read out the job(s) for each child, then let them go do their jobs. (And having the labels there with pictures gives the child a visual of what to do.)

And when first starting out, don't overdo it and give them ten jobs each! One job should do it, then in a few weeks or months, add a second and third job. But have more than one job time per day!

As for dressing and putting on shoes, the best method I've always used as a teacher was to count to ten (slowly). And some moms use this, but only if it motivates the child. Some children are not motivated by the counting method.

When a child refuses to do something, try making that something a job that is done daily as stated above.

And you may have to give a consequence. "We can't have lunch until you do such and such... we can't play outside... we can't watch a video..."

Also, ask yourself if you and your husband or your partner, or your nanny are on the same page. In other words, are you asking him to do something you know he can do himself, but someone else at home, another adult, is doing it for him?

In other words, all the adults that he comes into contact with need to have the same expectations of him and you all need to be consistent, ESPECIALLY at this age when they are sensitive to order and consistency!

So you might want to make a poster board with a list of all the things your children can do by themselves, without help, and write them in green marker. And list things they cannot do but need help with, in red. (Or use a dry wipe board or chalkboard or corkboard with labels.) Show it to all the adults, so there is no confusion (and your children). ~Lisa Nolan

Photo by Lisa Nolan (Our cat Lela and my son's monkey and blanket)

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