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How Parents Motivate Kids Through Their 5 Senses

By Jean Tracy, MSS

It's been said, “All knowledge comes through the senses.” Today, I'll share how parents can motivate their children with touch, smell, taste, sound, and sight. Keep reading to find out how to help your kids learn to believe in themselves through your positive motivation.

Imagine your child bragging to you about his work at school. My students did just that. Before I became a child and family counselor, I taught elementary school.

Every day after school I'd find a paper from every child and post it on the bulletin board or wall. I remember how each morning my pupils walked around the room until they saw their work. They'd say with a smile to the child next to them, “There's mine!” That was one of the ways I used their sense of sight to motivate them.

You CAN shape your children's belief in themselves. Look for the good they do and share it with them. Your sharing must be positive, truthful, and specific. Do it through their senses.

Some parents grew up with critical parents and ended up with grumpy critical minds. If you find yourself spouting criticism often, you can and must change this habit. This brief video, How Parents Can Control Their Anger shows a technique you can start using today. One piece of advice, “Never Give Up.” The mental health and success of your children depend on it.

Motivating Kids Through the Sense of Touch

Most children crave your loving touch with a pat on the back, a hug, a kiss, or a hand squeeze. When you blend it with a compliment, it means even more.


1. I like how you let your brother play ball with you and the older kids. (pat on the back)
2. I love how you hug me when I come home from work. (hug)
3. How did you learn so many ways to juggle balls? (hand squeeze)

Can you see how this could shape your child into being kind to his brother, greet you with a hug, or practice juggling more often? Loving touches with compliments work when you're specific and honest.

Motivating Kids Through the Senses of Smell and Taste

Cooking with children -

Consider cooking together with recipes chosen by your child. These recipes must be simple and use ingredients that you already have or are easy to find. Consider chocolate chip cookies, a tasty snack, or an uncomplicated meal. Choose one special day a week to cook or bake together.

Blend praise with this fun time together:


1. How does it feel being able to read recipes and measure ingredients so well?
2. I really enjoy cooking with you. It's our special time together.
3. Your cookies taste as good as they smell.


You're shaping your child to relish an important survival skill – preparing food. You're also fostering confidence and competence. Who knows, maybe someday he'll surprise you with breakfast in bed?

Motivating Your Child Through the Sense of Sight

When your student brings home a paper she's proud of, tape it to the fridge. The fridge can be your home “bulletin board” for all kinds of encouragement, like star charts, love notes, motivating mottoes, and much more. Change it often to catch your family's eye with new attractions. Blend these eye-catchers with praise.


1. How does it feel to see your chart fill with stars for chores well done?
2. How did you challenge yourself to write such a good book report?
3. What kept you going when that math assignment was tough to learn?


Questions like these help your child identify with the internal qualities and resources you want them to learn like, persistence, effort, and a positive mindset in the face of difficulties.

Watch this brief video, Smart Kids – 6 Questions for Intelligent Brains It includes the kind of questions you'll want to ask your child. If you do, you'll be increasing their mind power. Feel free to copy the transcript below the video.

Motivating Your Child Through the Sense of Sound

Avoid gushing praise like, “You were the best player on the team.” Your child knows who played the best and, if it wasn't him, your words are meaningless. Besides it could set him up for expectations he can't deliver in the next game. Imagine his feelings then.

Combine honest sounding praise with this strategy for success:

“How did it feel when you ran and caught the ball?” is a much better way to compliment. It helps your child tune into his good feelings. And it can become a positive resource for catching balls in the future. Especially when you use this simple technique:

“Remember how you felt as you caught the ball in the last game? Take a minute to experience that feeling now and take it into today's game.”

Don't tell your children “little white lies” on how great they are. Children know when they don't deserve something. Phony compliments make kids feel uncomfortable and manipulated. They're likely to distrust your honest praise too. If you're sincere and truthful with your praise, you will be believed.

When Kids Need Correcting

Harsh parents are not well-received. Children resent put-downs. They tune out lectures and feel angry when yelled at.

If your children need a correction, don't lay it on too thick, lecture, or be unkind. Truth, sincerity, and a desire to help your child are the keys. Your children must know and feel that you love and care about them.

I remember a child who answered too quickly and made lots of errors. I told her, “You have a smart brain. I know you can get the right answers if you take time to think.”

We went over her test together. I told her, “Think through these questions right now and make corrections.” She did and got everyone of them correct.

“See, I told you that your brain is smart,” I said. “All you had to do was slow down and think.” With a few reminders, she became a top student and received a perfect score on a national reading test. She knew that I cared and believed in her.

Conclusion for Motivating Kids Through Their Senses

Powerful motivation combines the sound of your positive voice with the other senses. Sincere, truthful compliments with a gentle touch will lift your child's spirit. Helping your child create tasty recipes with yummy smells is easy to praise. Kind words can include asking questions that emphasize your boy or girl's inner resources like persistence, self-regulation, and effort.

When you look for, find, and promote the good using the senses, you motivate your child to believe in himself and become a force for good in the world.

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