Michelle Duggar's Clever Strategy for Motivating Kids
Photo credit Jeremy Rendell
I'll often tell my children, "You know, time really is our friend. We want to use our time wisely, because that is our greatest resource that God entrusts to us, and those that use it wisely are going to reap the rewards of how we've spent our time."
We'll set a kitchen timer or use a stop watch when the kids need some motivation to start a project, practice an instrument or focus on schoolwork. They may think, "I might not be able to do this for three hours, but I can do this for 15 minutes." That's what's so great about using a timer -- it helps us to start on the task, which is usually the hardest part.
I have a wristwatch that's pretty basic. If Jim Bob and I are out on a very special date and we're all dressed up in our fancies, I'll take my wristwatch off because it's so ugly. It is not fancy at all, but it's my lifeline to keeping up with everything, because it's got my timer.
It's my mom watch, and now it's becoming my grandma watch, and I wear it because I'm always using it. It's important in a homeschool setting that the kids don't compare themselves with each other. Setting a timer or a stopwatch can help them focus on their work instead of how well someone is doing. I tell them, "Each one of you has strengths, and you're gifted with different things."
So I'll have them go against the clock if we're doing, like math drills -- and then it's more like a game. Some of my kids get distracted easily, and I'll set the timer for them and say, "Okay, we're going to see if you can beat your time from yesterday on finishing your spelling words and practicing for this test that you're going to be taking in a few minutes."
For those ones who can get a little distracted, it helps them to realize, "Oh, yes, I'm going to really stay on top of it. Fifteen minutes, that's all I've got. I'm going to drill myself on all these words, and then I'm going to be ready to take my test. "Otherwise 30 minutes could go by and they still haven't prepared for the test I'm about to give them.
Using a timer helps to focus them. They're not looking at somebody else and saying, "They got all of those right and I missed all of these?" Instead of them feeling like they're up against each other it's just them against the timer.
I also use a timer to organize with, and we also use it with the kids for household chores. We'll have a basket of socks, and I'll set the timer. I'll say, "Oh, man, you mated all those socks in three minutes, and you've got this many that are mismatched that we'll put back in the basket for the next time for whoever gets to do it then."
We'll put the time on a chart so they can see how fast they matched the socks, and it's a chart just for them that they don't share with anyone else. The idea is that it's their own little thing of, "Wow, I'm really getting faster at that. I'm getting good at it" -- and in their mind they're being encouraged and built up, and it's not a competitive thing.
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