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Episode 108

How Do We Get Our Kids to Read and Help Around the House?

May 20, 2024
In Episode 108, Kyle and Sara, LPCs, discuss the common motivational technique of paying kids to do reading, chores, and other activities. Is this method helping motivate them or is it more likely to demotivate them? What other things can we do as parents to get them do this stuff if we aren’t paying them? Maybe we need to change the question all together. Sara and I talk about how changing the question completely transforms how we approach these topics.

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Episode 108 Transcript:

Summertime is almost here. And I know every parent listening to this is thinking, what could we teach our kids this summer? How could we teach them to get better at doing chores or get them to read more, get them to do whatever it is that you're wanting to intentionally teach them? Well, in today's podcast, we're gonna answer that question by doing something completely different. We're gonna change the question.

And by the end of this podcast, you are gonna get specific steps, specific examples and scenarios that I know you right now are going, how do I do this with my kid? Because I know it's gonna be a big power struggle, but we are gonna give you those specific steps on how to make the summer so much more enjoyable and actually help your kid learn the very thing you're wanting them to learn rather than them fighting and resisting, kicking and screaming the whole way. So come join us on the conversation.

Hello, welcome to the Art of Raising Humans. I'm Kyle. And I'm Sara. And Sara, it's almost summertime, right? Yes. Okay, so for every parent listening to this podcast, I believe it's gonna drop right around about when summer's about to hit, okay? So when I was thinking about the topic that we wanted to do, I thought let's make it really pertinent for kids about to be out of school and family spending a lot of time together, okay? And what I started hearing a lot with families we've been coaching,

is they're struggling with motivation. There's things that they really want to teach their kids. And I love it. They're trying to be intentional and they're like, I want my kids to start doing chores. I want my kids to do that reading list that the school's asking them to do. I want them to get all these good habits. Okay. And so many times they're coming asking questions like, how do we make that happen? You know, cause I think summer's a great time. I have personally thought that I've thought, okay, summer's coming.

we don't have all these other things going on. We can focus on some of the things that I'm wanting, you know, some skills I'm wanting to work on. And so, yeah, I think it's a natural time you get that list going and then you're like, how I want this to be successful. And I've got a couple of months to do it. Yeah. And so before we jump into that and get into the nitty gritty, it would really be so helpful to us. If you went and pause the podcast right now and went to the comment page and put a comment there about maybe what you're looking forward to over this summer, something you're wanting to teach your kids.

Cause we're going to give you some great information about how to do that. We'd love for you to give us a five star review. Once again, this is the currency of podcasts. So the more you do that, the more people are likely to see it and then be helped by the information. So we would really appreciate it. So I want to dive into this topic. Cause like I said, it seems really pertinent right now for a lot of families, specifically what I'm hearing with elementary age kids. there's, there's these reading things they want them to do the school saying, Hey, let's keep up the reading or Hey, let's do some math over the summer. You know? And so, so the parents,

many times come in a little nervous or anxious like how are we gonna get them to buy into this? And you also see this even when it comes to how are we gonna get them to practice soccer? Or how are we gonna get them to practice whatever sport is lacrosse or basketball? Yeah, all the things you've been working on, you don't want them to lose, gotta keep doing it. And there's a lot of frustration because they'll say,

When we ask them to, they're just like, summer, I don't want to do that. and there'll be a lot of complaining and whining will happen. And there'll be this kind of power struggle that will occur. You just want to sit around all summer. Yeah. So what I've heard, Sara, I mean, I'd love to hear maybe what you hear from parents, but I hear a lot of parents will pay them. Right? So they'll use money as kind of an incentive. They'll use money. They'll say, if you read so many books, you'll get this much money. Yeah. Screen time. Yes. Yeah. You'll get more of that, possibly.

Get this stuff done, then you get screens. Yes. Or maybe even we'll do some kind of dessert. We'll put some kind of fun treat connected to it in some form or fashion. And so when parents are telling me that, there's always something that kind of hits me a little about that that says, whoa, is that maybe the best way to do it? And it's not that that's a wrong way to do it. It's just a way. Yeah. It's a method. It's a pathway.

but I wanna just talk more about some of the outcomes of that or the consequences of using that method, okay? So first of all, I'd say, Sara, why do people tend to use those ways? Why do they tend to lean on paying their kids for a lot of things or using other types of rewards to motivate their kids to do those things? Well, I think my personal experience and then just from talking to parents, you think one, we work for money, right? So it's almost...

replicating the system of the world, right? I grow up, I work a job and I get paid. I get these benefits from the work I'm doing. So I'm replicating that, almost teaching my children how to be in that world, preparing them for it. And another big one that comes to my mind, it feels a lot better than using punishment. It's like I'm gonna move away from punishment. Instead, I'm gonna use this thing as a motivator. It's a great way to motivate. And even as adults, we might motivate ourselves away. I'm gonna...

I'm gonna do this, this and this, and then I'm gonna go have lunch with my friend. So we kind of all live in a system of rewarding ourselves. That's a very common way. So of course we bring our children into that. That's natural, common thing. Well, and I think I loved what you said. I hadn't been thinking about that, but that's so true that parents are, like in previous summers, it became a huge conflict between us, right? Big power struggles. Every day I'm yelling at them to read and I don't want to do that.

You know, and I'm glad that they don't want to do that. But then they're saying the only other way they can think of is to then reward them or give some kind of like in like you said last time, a financial reward is connected to that. We've even seen it. I know some parents may be listening to this, will pay their kids to make goals or to score baskets or things like that, you know, because they're thinking that will motivate them to want to do that more. Yeah. Okay. So I'd say if you're trying to move away from punishment,

that can be a helpful step, right? So as you said, it's not as it's, we're sort of let's, here's a tool people can use and let's just kind of piece it apart because we're trying to give you information for you to make decisions for your family. There might be times where we're like, okay, here I'm going to, but now that I know this, maybe I'm gonna shift in a different direction for something else. Yeah. And I just want to point out one more thing, Sara. I think a lot of people are using those because there is this underlying belief and it's based in some history. It's not based in just nonsense, but.

that the kid will not be motivated to do these things. Yeah. Why would you do it if you're not getting something from that? That's kind of why would I go to work if I'm not getting a paycheck? Yes. That's what's in their head, right? Is why would the kid do the dishes or pick up the dog poop or whatever it might be you're asking, or why would the kid read that book rather than play the video game if there's not something that we are enticing them to get out of it, right? Okay. So I think that's really important because that changes.

a lot of how we approach it. If I believe my kid would not do it, they wouldn't be motivated on their own, then it does seem to put the onus on me to now motivate them to do that. Yes. Okay. So, so what we want to do, and this is a fundamental shift, okay, a fundamental shift in how to approach this. And I think then once you make this shift, Sara, it changes every kind of, you know, idea I have connected to how to do that.

Okay, so let me just sum it up in this. I love how Dr. Becky Bailey, she approaches it this way, where she says, every parenting approach that you're gonna read about or see about or hear about, almost 100 % of them are trying to answer one fundamental question that's connected to this. And you're gonna be probably asking yourself this question a lot throughout the summer. And that question is, how do I get my kid to do...

whatever it is you're asking. Fill in the blank. Yeah. So how do I get my kid to read those books this summer? How do I get my kid to not sleep in, you know, and wake up on time? How do I get my kid to do some exercise or? Shores. Yeah. Eat better. Anything. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, even sometimes how do I get my kid to be more social? Yeah. Go outside. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And so it becomes this, there's a, there's a problem. There's a real simple problem with that question. Okay. And the main word that is problematic is get.

How am I going to get my kid to do something? So you and I bought into a long time ago that we did not want to approach parenting that way. Because I don't believe I can get you to do anything, right, as my wife, and you can't get me to do anything. Everything we do, we do because we choose to. And the real problem in that is even if I, as your husband, somehow quote unquote got you to do something, that's unhealthy.

You know, it's unhealthy if I somehow coerced you, manipulated you, somehow, you know, talked you into it, right? Like, because really what's unhealthy about it is I never actually did get you to do it. It was always your choice. Yes. You know? And I find one more thing in my own mind, Sara, is when I'm thinking, how do I get that kid to do something or how do I get my wife to do it, is then I can justify almost any tactic I do because it's kind of an ends justify the means thing. You know? So if I do...

threaten the kid or if I do get really intimidating or even if I do use tons of rewards to do it. As long as we got the outcome we wanted, I can justify what I did. Yeah, they read the whole book list. Woo! Yeah, right? Yeah, they really needed to do it. It's really important for the school year coming up. My child needed to improve their reading. And so you do, you feel kind of desperate. And so you move into that and you think, well, we got the goal accomplished. This is great. This is okay. Yeah. But I love...

the get if you if you pull that apart and if you think about it, break it down. What kind of power dynamic am I creating? And what am I teaching my kids about how they interact with other humans? Yeah, yeah, I have a goal for you. Yeah. And, and even if it's a well meaning goal, you know, reading your book, all those goals we said, yes, it's a well meaning goal. When I'm in the mindset of I'm going to get you to do it.

It's looking at the relationship different than thinking, you're choosing. You're choosing. I see that you have a choice here. I see that you are a part of this and it's not something I'm doing to you. There's a whole different feel between the word getting someone to do something and them choosing to do something.

And so if you just sit with that for a moment and think about how does it feel when someone's getting me to do something and how does it feel when I'm trying to get someone to do something, you can kind of feel there's a different power there. There's a different relationship. I'm looking at things entirely different. So I just encourage, just sit for a moment and think about how that feels when someone has gotten you to do something. Yeah. When a boss got you to do it or something with a really nice paycheck. Yeah.

You know, it does, it can even be a really wonderful thing. And you're like, well, I mean, it was where I got the reward. That's great. You know, I go to work every day and I get that I get the paycheck, but there's just, there's just a different dynamic there. And when we're talking about children and how we want to help them think about goals and what they're wanting to accomplish in life. Do I want that to be from a place of I've gotten goals for you and I'm going to get you to do those goals. Yeah. Yeah.

And I think on top of that, Sara, for everybody listening right now, I would love for you to take a moment and think about the goals that you have for your kids this summer and really dive into those. Because even when it goes to the reading thing, when I talk to parents about that, the goal isn't actually to get them to do the reading list. The goal underneath that is they want their kids to love reading. They want their kids to be like, it's summertime. I get to read some books, right? And they're almost having to say, hey, enough reading. Let's put that in there.

They're wanting their kids to choose reading over video games, right? Or they're wanting their kids to love being outside and playing outside. They're wanting their kids to grab a board game and play it, right? Understand the value of chores, being part of a family. Taking responsibility for that. Yes. All wonderful, helpful things in life. They're wanting their kid to go, the dishes are dirty. I'm going to go do those, right? Just totally proactively, right? Of their own volition. So that's really what they're wanting them to do. That's the goal. But we're actually dumbing it down.

when we just make the goal for them just to do it, right? It's really surfacey. It's not really deep. Okay, so that's right. As you're listening, just think about the goal and really go underneath. What is the real goal that you would love to accomplish? And maybe, maybe if you're being honest about it, you've lowered those expectations. You lowered the belief that you could ever have a kid who actually would prefer reading over video games.

You know or prefer playing outside over just being on a watching a TV show or something would see dishes that need to be done and go and do them exactly Yeah, that's almost like they won't do it without the carrot. Yeah, they have to have the carrot to chase or they won't do it Yeah, there's nothing so it takes away the opportunity for them to have something inside of them. That's choosing that There's always got to be this external thing. Yeah pulling them or driving them in that direction

And some great books that if you want to dive into this deeper and we're going to go into more, but some great books that we're drawing some of this information from as well is Alfie Cohn's book, Punished by Rewards is a really good book on this, but also drive by Daniel Pink. That's a book on motivation. So both those books are fantastic. You want to look into, but what Dr. Becky Bailey suggests and that we have found has been so helpful in our family, but also with the parents we coach is changing the question. Remember the question before was how do I get my kid to do?

dot dot dot, whatever that may be, to how do I help my child be more likely to choose whatever that is, be more likely to choose to do the reading list, be more likely to choose to wash the dishes, right? So the fundamental shift is intent, intent on our part. Instead of my intent being to get you to do something, my intent is to help you be more likely to choose to do it. Okay? And this is a big flip. It is.

It's amazing. It is because now we've moved from the external. Something is getting you to now I'm choosing my child is choosing is something inside of them. They're recognizing their own power and impact in their world. How's this going to, you know, whatever the choice is to do the dishes, how's this help other people. it's just growing their world because they're thinking about my place in this world, my choices in this world, what I do and that impact to help me.

read the books, grow as a reader or whatever it might be. It's just switched it from this you pulling and directing to now it's coming from inside of the child. Yeah. No, it's beautiful the way you said that. And it's a big change too, because inevitably what I've seen and the reason why the change is so important. What I've seen Sara is those kids who grew up in kind of the system where school felt like they had to get them to read or get them to do things or the parents did too.

I'm not saying it's 100 % true. I'm sure there is a percentage of kids who do fall in love with reading and do stumble into that, right? But lots of those kids never want to read again. And it's because they always associated reading with something they don't want to do and other people need to make them do it or get them to do it, right? As opposed to starting from a different expectation that reading is something that is enjoyable, right? So even if you're an adult and you say, well, I don't really like reading, reading is

something, seeing these stories, actually engaging the written word is something that is intrinsically rewarding. So when you read something and learn something or you engage this kind of, you finish a book, there is this sense of reward and accomplishment that comes naturally with it, okay? Just like scoring us a goal or hitting a basket. There's naturally a reward that comes with it. It feels good every time. A clean countertop after dishes is beautiful.

Well, I mean, you're laughing, but it's true. Like having a clean room feels good. And they've done, I mean, side note, they've done studies. I feel like I see it all over. So probably you all have to, but just a cluttered house or our house with even nice little piles, what that does and how that higher raises your anxiety levels, raises stress levels versus a clean. So that clean countertop really does.

Wonderful. So there's already somehow we're already wired for this. And this is where Daniel Pink's book drive really dives into this. That if you if you look at little kids, little kids don't need to be motivated by rewards. They naturally want to walk and talk and run and play hard. They do climbing upstairs and downstairs. I mean, they they take on very daunting things over and over and over and they want to master it.

So Daniel Pink makes the argument that we are wired to want to learn and grow and do, we are naturally motivated to want to master these things, even if it's mastering reading or mastering play or mastering a sport, right? We naturally want to do these things. All the happy things in our brain goes off when we've mastered something, when we have learned a new skill, you know, our brain rewards us with this like, woo, happy stuff. Yeah. So if you start with that belief that,

reading fundamentally is good for our kids and that our kids, they're not born with a distaste in reading. They're not born going, reading stinks. They're actually taught to dislike it. They're taught this belief that reading is not something I want to do. It's not fun. That's what they tell themselves. So let's just take that as an example about how to use that because that comes up a lot with the reading list. And I think we're not gonna cover every type of...

goal you're setting for your kid, but let's use this as an example of how to change the question. The same skills we use for this example can then be applied to whatever it might be. Yes. So, so one of them, so, so instead of asking, how do I get my kids to do the reading list this summer? Or how do I get my kids to go deeper to fall in love with reading? Instead, I asked, how do I help my kids be more likely to do the readings? How do I help my kids be more likely to enjoy reading? Right. That's a different question. Okay.

Yeah. So I think the first step is make sure you've got that goal because you already, you already hit on that. What's, what's your real goal? It's not necessarily to the reading list. It's the joy of reading. Okay. So start there, get your goal, whatever it might be, apply it to your situation and then go on. And the next thing, what I want to do, and you hear us say this a lot in our podcast, if you're a new listener, we'll use the word co -create a lot. That's really what I want to do is co -create with my kids. This isn't something you're doing to them. It's something you're doing with them.

Okay, so I would sit down with the kids and say, and this is where the power of choice comes in. This is the word changes question is so important is the choice isn't are we gonna read these books or not, right? I mean, that's something it's hard for parents to understand. They're saying, so you're saying my kids aren't gonna read don't have to read. I'll say, no, they actually don't have to read, but that's actually not the choice that you're helping them choose by I'm using my hands here in the video by by setting the boundaries on what the choice actually is.

So it isn't how do we help them be more likely to choose to read? That's a no brainer. How do we help them be more likely to choose to read this many books, whatever, right? So what that looks like is I'm gonna sit down with the kids and say, hey, this summer, I want us to focus on doing some reading. And they might be like, what? I know, and then I'm boring. I know it's so hard to read. I'm gonna read too though. Like we're all gonna read. It's gonna be great. So how many books do you think?

we want to read this summer, you know? And of course, you in the back of your mind are thinking, you know how many you would like them to read. So maybe you're gonna frame it like, do you guys want to do three, four, five? Which one would you like to do three, four, five? You know? And then the kids might say, so you guys are just saying three? I think I'm gonna do four. How many do you guys want to do? Yeah, so I'm just inviting them into this playful conversation and they might go, fine, three, right? And then you say, where do you want to read those? Like, do you want to read them at home?

Should we go to the local library and read? Sometimes you guys like to go there, right? Or do you want to go to a Starbucks or a coffee shop and sit and read? And the kids might go, really? If we go to the coffee shop, can we get a special drink? You're like, sure, we can get a special drink and read. Yeah, so when we go there, we'll spend an hour or two, and we're going to really read. We're going to focus. And we'll see if that helps you enjoy reading more, right? Because I find it helps me. And so then I'd want to frame it like that. And I might even say, do we want to do this once a week?

Do you want to do it a couple of times a week? How often do you do it? But do you see these questions are us coming together to co -create a situation and a setting that is more conducive to you being successful? It's really no different than what we do as adults, Sara. When you and I were working on our master's degrees, when we quote unquote had to do papers, we didn't just like do them anywhere. We tried to find a place that helped us get into that mode of doing school. Turn on music. We did it together because then it was kind of an incredible experience.

Yeah, we went on our own. Yeah, there were lots of things. I mean, I don't know if you've been part of study groups, but there's all sorts of ways that as adults, we hopefully learn some of these skills of how can I support myself reaching this goal? And so kids don't have that skill naturally. So when you co -create, you're coming with them and you're helping them to kind of borrow your maturity and your skill because their prefrontal cortex is still developing. That whole planning stuff isn't there for them. So,

You're going into a lot of detail. You, in your example, went into a lot of detail. Are we going to do this? When are we going to do it? How much are we going to do it? And it's very supportive and it's not coming, here's the plan. It's really, you want their buy -in. The more buy -in they have, the more committed they are to completing that. So if they said, I want to cuddle up with blankets and music, or maybe I want to go out in the sunshine and read, you want them bringing their ideas because they're going to choose it.

and then you'll have a much higher success rate if they have been a part of that creating and they're excited about it. And now they're imagining it. You're creating this picture in their mind as you talk about it in great detail. It creates this picture in their mind and then their mind starts to go in that direction before you're even doing it. Their brain is already planning and already going and growing in that direction. So you want, I love the detail that you went into in that example. I'll give you one more example as I'm also thinking a lot of families, Sara, if summer comes up,

the kids I'm talking to, especially elementary age, they think, summertime, I'm gonna play video games as much as I want. That's gonna be what it is, right? And I will talk to the parent about how, you know, a skill we're really working on with the kid is self -control. So we want the kid to be able to have fun playing the video games, but also know when to shut them off and all that. Too often the mistake we make is we go back to how do we get them to not play video games so much, you know? So then we end up doing a lot of these rigid type.

ways of structuring it to say, this is the way it's gonna happen. And then the kid spends the whole summer fighting it. So I know if you're listening to this, you're thinking about lots of you are afraid and nervous of that happening, that the kids gonna fight against that sneak around you try to do behind your back with all these limits, yes, gonna shut down and it's all about stopping it. Yeah, right. Yeah. And so when I'm having conversations like that, Sara, I'm talking about that, like, hey, this summer,

I want us all to get better at self control when it comes to specifically devices or it might be with sugar or whatever that might be, right? So we're going to sit. How could we practice having more self control? And the kid will be like, I don't know what you're talking about. What does that mean? And I'll say, let me tell you what that means. It looks like this. It looks like for me, maybe I'll pick up my phone and I'm going to look at.

some social media for a little bit, but I'm purposely going to put a limit on it myself and say, I'm only going to look at this for about 15 minutes and I'm going to shut it off because I don't think it's good for my brain to keep just going scrolling through Instagram or Tik Tok or Facebook, whatever it is, right? So as the adult, you could say that to the kids. So this summer, I'm going to work on being better at putting my phone away and not spending so much time on it. How could you practice self control? Right? And then the kid might say, well, maybe if I, you know, the video games, I don't play that that long. Right. Yeah.

And so you start to develop what success looks like. What does it look like to have time with the video games, but practice self -control with it? And every kid I've done that with will say, maybe I want to play outside more. Maybe go on my trampoline or maybe go hang out with my friend. really? Awesome. So how much time do you want to do that? How much time with the video games? And this could be a weekly discussion about how we as a family are succeeding at helping self -control in whatever area each person is working. Yes. Yeah.

And so I love, I mean, a big one there obviously is the modeling. You don't just come, there's something about kids watching you, they learn more by watching you than by hearing your words. So if they're watching you, even if it doesn't seem like they are, they are. He said he wanted to watch his social media usage. So they're watching every time you're like, and that's a great option for you to say, you know what, I've been on this for such amount of time, I'm gonna go ahead, set that down. Do you wanna go do something or I'm gonna go? And then again,

it's pointing them in the direction of what they're going to. So I've set this limit and then I'm gonna go jump on the trampoline. I'm gonna go, so you're filling in all that empty space. It's not just, I'm gonna not do this. You help fill in and again, you're moving in a direction. So when you're goal setting with your kids, you wanna think about where are we going? Where are they going? And you want that space filled in in their imagination. So I hope this conversation is gonna help your summer goal setting with your kids. I know all of you listening,

want to be intentional parents, you want to use this summer to really be beneficial for your kids and you as a whole family to grow together. So I hope this really helps you by changing the question, not how do we get them to do something, but how do we help them be more likely to choose and definitely share this with any parents that you know, all the ones that you know from school that you're like, they've been asking these same questions. You send it their way, send it to their teachers. So they get this new way of envisioning it and picturing.

how to come alongside and co -create the summer with the kids. Because when they create it with you, they're more likely to want to stick with it and do the thing that we're wanting to help them do. So I hope you found this very helpful and we appreciate all your time and definitely keep listening. We're gonna have so many more great interviews with other experts about things like this throughout the summer. And we just thank you for joining us. Thank you.

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