Use the power of encouragement

Just last night, my oldest, William, demonstrated very clearly the power of encouragement. It’s fitting since my last post talked about using your relationship (love and encouragement) to motivate children to obey.

Here’s the story. Earlier in the day, the house had gotten to be quite a mess, and I needed to find a way to motivate my kids to clean up. As funny (or sad) as it sounds, the sun was finally out, and I wanted this cleanup job to happen very quickly. (Here in Seattle we need to get outside the minute the sun comes out.) So I told them I would set the timer for 10 minutes and they needed to clean up as much as they could without stopping (or stopping to complain).

After the playroom was clean, we moved upstairs to clean bedrooms. Again, I set the timer. This was all great encouragement, but when I passed by William’s room, he was cleaning very intently. In fact, he was in the process of neatly folding his pajamas and putting them on top of his dresser. He was very deliberate about it. I told him what a great job he was doing.

He also earned extra marbles for the great job he did. (We have a marble system that enables them to trade one marble for 10 minutes on the iPad or iPhone.) Lucas got three marbles for cleaning up, and I was sure to tell him that he would have earned more if he hadn’t complained. William did such a great job that I gave him five marbles. (Understand that they only earned marbles after the fact, so it was a reward, not a bribe.)

This was all so great, but I’m not done yet. Later that night, I sent William upstairs to get started getting ready for bed. He knew he needed to take his vitamins, brush teeth, and get in the shower. By the time I got upstairs, he was in the shower. What put a smile on my face were his clothes, folded ever so neatly and placed in a pile on my bed. They went right in the hamper anyway, but usually, he leaves them in a heap on the bathroom floor.

Plus, he had set the egg timer that was sitting on top of my dresser. When he got out of the shower, he checked and found that he had 10 minutes left. He had challenged himself to get ready for bed before the timer went off (much like our timed cleanup job).

It’s so refreshing to me to see that just a small amount of encouragement (verbal praise and a few marbles) can have such great power to motivate my kids. Try something similar in your home and see if you get the same results.


  1. I liked the marbles idea. How old were they when you started using that approach?

  2. Maureen says:

    We just started using the marble system in February. They are 4 and 7.5. My oldest clearly understands the system. The 4yo knows what it’s all about, but he doesn’t always think about earning or spending marbles. I’m sure if I worked with him more on it, he would understand. I’ve actually had to put the marble system on hold. My oldest was getting too wrapped up in it. He wanted marbles for everything he did. I don’t want him learning that every chore or helpful act around the house earns a marble. It started to establish a “what’s in it for me?” attitude. So it’s on hold for now. If I see that he needs that encouragement again, or if the devices are getting out of hand, I’ll reinstate it.

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