The beginning of the school year is rough on my kids. They adapt pretty well to small changes in their schedules, but big transitions can be tough. By the time they get home from school, they’re completely wiped out. The only thing they want to do is crash on the couch for a while. I really can’t blame them.
But there are pesky things like homework, chores, and after-school activities. Plus, I’m a big advocate of just playing with friends in the neighborhood, building Legos, and getting dirty outside. So I let them take a load off for a while, but then I’ve got to help them get motivated to tackle homework, chores and practice. This is not my favorite part of parenting. This is not their favorite part of being parented by me.
But it’s my job to help them move past their grouchiness and get them ready to tackle their stuff. Here are a couple of strategies that have worked with my three kids (ages 4, 8, and 10). Let’s check them out:
Let’s get started, shall we? 1 of 8
DANCE PAR-TAY!! 2 of 8
If my kiddos are being sad sacks and can't get motivated to do anything, I have a magic bullet: LED ZEPPELIN. Want to really kick up a notch? Gangnam Style. Or if I feel like pushing the envelope and I really, really want them to do something for me that they don't want to do, I might let 'em have a little "Teenage Dirtbag." But only if they promise not to tell their father.
Don't judge me, ok? I'm doing the best I can. Also, data suggests that kids really benefit from dancing. Maybe not from "Teenage Dirtbag," but whatever, I'm enriching them ... and stuff.
Turn off the TV 3 of 8
My kids are smart and hard-working, but once the TV (or any other screen) comes on, they suddenly lose the ability to hear anything that is not coming from the screen. They lose all motivation to do anything. I get it. If you try to talk me while I'm playing Candy Crush Saga, I will be like: "Listen, I am clearly very busy matching up striped jellybeans. Come back when I run out of lives."
There are lots of studies that negatively correlate children's attention, motivation, and energy with higher amounts of daily screen time. So if I want my kids to have enough energy and focus to deal with homework, piano lessons, or baseball practice, I turn off all of the screens. Including my own, which leads to suggestion #3 ...
Photo credit: ImageryMajestic
Give some undivided attention. 4 of 8
Education research confirms that the more attention children receive in the classroom, the higher their motivation is to succeed. The same basic principal holds true for parents; if you want to motivate your kids to get with the program, give them your attention.
It doesn't have to be an hour long conversation or some bizarrely intense eye contact thing. That's just weird. Don't do that. But take a couple of minutes to connect with your kids and talk about stuff. Child development expert and author Dr. Sal Severe (whose books I lurve) suggests that when your kids are bugging you for attention, if give them one minute of your total, focused attention, that's often enough for them to reboot and go back to what they were doing.
Take a lap, kid. 5 of 8
If you want to get your kids energized, then how about a little physics? A body in motion tends to stay in motion. There's lots of evidence that a few minutes of physical activity helps kids focus, learn better, and even sleep better at night. Kids with lots of wiggles and fidgets do better if they can run off some steam. Get rid of the excess energy, get some endorphins flowing, and get ready to see happier kids.
Plus, getting outside to run or ride bikes gives us all some fresh air, a change of scenery, and it means that no children in my house are playing Minecraft and ignoring me.
Sorry, kids. The snacks will be healthy. 6 of 8
While I'm not super strict about what my kids eat, I do have one rule about healthy food. If asked, my kids will roll their eyes and recite it: "You have to have something healthy first." Then comes the annoyed exhale. Did you just hear it?
The idea is if they're full of healthy stuff, they're less hungry for junk that's going to slow them down. So if they want some chips, they have to have an apple first. It's that simple.
Take a Power Nap 7 of 8
Everyone's focus and energy can benefit from a power nap. I know mine can. If everyone is complaining that they're too tired, try some mandatory quiet time. I think we all know that mandatory quiet time is TOTALLY FREAKING AWESOME. Set the timer so no one sleeps too long. An optimal power nap is about 20 minutes.
30 Minutes on the Playground 8 of 8
Taking your kids to the playground for a few minutes serves a couple of purposes:
1) It lets them run off some excess energy.
2) It's a carrot rather than a stick to encourage them to do homework, practice their violin, clean their room, etc.
3) If you're in need of some adult conversation, there may be some other cool parents to kick it with for a little while.
Do you have any suggestions for things you can do to keep kids motivated and energized after school? I would love to hear 'em, so a leave a comment for me.
Read more from Julie at her blog Rants from MommyLand. Follow Julie on Facebook , Pinterest and Twitter for additional goofy nonsense at no extra charge. You can also catch up on all her posts on her Babble Voices blog, Rants in My Pants.