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How Can I Motivate My Child to Do a Task?

 a boy having trouble focusing

In the journey of parenting neurodiverse children, it's important to use strategies that will help them to respond effectively. When it comes to fostering motivation and getting tasks done, three key categories should be evaluated: emotional management, finding value, and making tasks easier to manage.

Emotional Management:

Recognizing the emotional aspects of motivation struggles is crucial. Neurodiverse children may experience frustration, anxiety, or overwhelm when faced with tasks that require attention or executive functioning skills. As a parent, the threshold of patience can increase once the challenge is understood. Neurodiverse children often experience different pathways neurologically and therefore do not take the same reward pathways as their neurotypical counterparts. As a parent, if you are using conventional methods to get housework, homework, or hygiene tasks done, it can be frustrating. If you then don’t understand why results aren’t being seen, it can be even worse. This all can create a vicious cycle within the house. In reality, if expectations and understandings can be managed on a parent’s end,  then the tasks can be managed better. 

Finding Value:

Neurodiverse children often seek stimulation, which can affect their motivation to engage in tasks perceived as less rewarding. Finding ways to make tasks more stimulating or connecting them to the child's interests can enhance motivation. For example, if a child does not want to brush their teeth and has a hard time establishing a routine with that task, find them a toothbrush that engages with their interests, or play music during the process to get them distracted. Furthermore, identifying what holds value for the child is key. Whether it's a preferred activity, a special reward, or a personal goal, aligning tasks with the child's values can significantly increase motivation. If a child does not want to do homework, it can increase their motivation to get it done when a reward that they do care about is attached. The “when, then” method can be employed to see results on this matter. Saying things like “when your homework is done, then you can play with your friends” can redirect them to focus on the reward and finishing the task. Parents can increase motivation and engagement by involving the child in setting goals and rewards. Find out what the child finds motivating, and make a list of them to keep. Leveraging these motivations in rotation can help to ensure that there is always a stimulating reward at the end of the task. 

Making Tasks Easier to Manage:

Breaking down tasks into manageable steps reduces cognitive load and makes them less overwhelming. By simplifying tasks, parents can support neurodiverse children in building confidence and competence. Rather than saying “clean your room,” a child can be encouraged by breaking down a task into steps such as “put your clothes in the drawer, then we can talk about what comes next.” Though this may require more effort on the parent’s end, the task will take less prompting and reminding when given in small palatable steps. This can be especially important in helping a child with educational tasks, as many educational tasks require strong executive functioning skills, which can be challenging for neurodiverse children. For example, think about how many steps are involved in keeping a bookbag organized. In order to be successful in school, a child needs to stay organized when it comes to papers, folders, supplies, etc. in their bookbag, but it can be overwhelming. Helping them to make the task manageable is crucial for educational success. It's important for parents and caregivers to remain flexible in their approaches and be willing to adjust strategies based on the child's needs. What works for one child may not work for another, so experimentation and adaptation are key.

By focusing on emotional management, finding value, and making tasks easier to manage, parents and caregivers can empower neurodiverse children to overcome motivation struggles and thrive in their daily lives. With patience, understanding, and tailored support, these children can unlock their full potential and achieve success. At WeThrive Learning, we help empower parents and students to do this exact thing. Click on this link to schedule a call with us to learn more about educational therapy with us and ADHD student coaching to decide if this is the support your child needs to learn and thrive.

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