Tell them what they've won, Johnny!


We all need to be reminded every once in a while about what we are working for. Not feeling like getting up to go to work? Remember you're working for that paycheck. Feeling like you don't want to wake up and help the kids get ready for school? Remember that you're working to get some alone time. Well just like everyone else, children need to be reminded this as well. Which is why it's important to remind them what they are doing all of this hard work for!

In my sessions, most of my children don't think of the music as work, but as the reward itself which is a plus! But in other therapies and classrooms, the children work for 15-30 minutes to earn something of value. Some of them work for a token which will add up to something important. Others earn iPad or computer time when they complete their work. Those that can understand longer time concepts earn points within each 30-minute period and, if they've earned at least 50 points by the end of the day, they get to attend Behavior Mod, which could be time in the music room, fishing at the lake, free gym, Wii game room, computers, cooking, etc. They select their Behavior Mod choice when they arrive at school in the morning so they know what they are working for all day long. Having an extra sense of motivation besides sense of accomplishment is important when it comes to working with all children, but especially those with special needs.

In my music room, I have a chart that says "I'm earning _____" with a big yellow star. If the child may need some extra motivation to finish their session, I allow them to pick out a preferred instrument that they get to play at the end of the session, as long as they complete everything else on their schedule. This not only gives them something to work for, but it also gives them responsibility and independency by allowing them to choose on their own and make their own decisions. Although I may have the rest of their session planned out, they know that as long as they work hard, they will get to play their favorite instrument before they leave!

It's great that in most special needs schools, children are given an alternative motivation besides just grades, but what about everyone else? What's their drive to attend school and complete at least high school? Think about it this way: Children in regular schools are just told they need to go to school. Many of them don't want to be there because they're not being encouraged or reminded why they're there. They just need to go because someone says so and that's that. What if we viewed this a different way? Explain to them that whether college is in the cards or not is besides the point, and that in order to gain the basic knowledge you need to know you should finish high school and gain some experience while finishing school. Give them a purpose! Try giving them an attendance reward. When I was younger, if I attended school regularly (unless of course I was actually sick), my mom would reward me with a personal day. I could use this day when I really felt like I just needed some time to relax or a simple day off. No matter how you go about it, it's important to remind children that school is their job right now and they are working for in the future. Reward them the same way that you get rewarded with PTO by going to work! Get creative in every different setting!

So we want to know, what do you use as an added motivation in your sessions, school, classroom, or with your own children? Let us know in the comments below! I would love to get some fresh ideas!

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