When Punishments and Rewards No Longer Work

Listen with Empathy to Motivate Older Kids

Have you ever noticed that as kids age using rewards and punishments that used to motivate them as young children, no longer work at encouraging them to behave?

The reason for this is that as kids get older, their motivation becomes intrinsic.

In an article on verywell.com, Kendra Cherry teaches us that, “extrinsic motivation occurs when we are motivated to perform a behavior or engage in an activity to earn a reward or avoid punishment.”

She defines intrinsic motivation as engaging in a behavior because it is personally rewarding. Intrinsic motivation is doing an activity for its own sake, rather than the desire for some external reward.

Dennis Bumgarner, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist explains that to motivate children you probably try to be enthusiastic. He writes, “You may give them a pep talk, or try to rouse them with ‘I-know-you-can-do-it’ or ‘Get-in-there-and-make- it-happen’ sort of cheerleading. You might decide to compliment them, list their skills and positive attributes, or tell them how smart they are,” he says.

But, in his e-book, MOTIVATING YOUR INTELLIGENT BUT UNMOTIVATED TEENAGER, Bumgarner suggests that the reaction to this kind of over-enthusiastic cheerleading, especially for kids who are demoralized or disheartened, is actually demotivating. It produces the opposite result of that which you intend.

Bumgarner points out that if the child doesn’t believe the positive things being said about him, it is not only not motivating, it makes him feel guilty. He feels unworthy of your praiseful words.

Bumgarner says that a “fundamental error made by caregivers using this approach is that they are not listening to the child.”

He continues, “If you are not listening, you can’t conceivably understand. When you don’t understand, your praise comes across not as positive but patronizing.”

But, that doesn’t mean criticism helps either. Bumgarner writes, “If you wish someone to continue doing what they are doing, criticize their every effort and condemn their conduct. This is a sure-fire way to guarantee, especially with an adolescent, that their current behavior will continue.”

The author teaches that the only way to motivate older children is by showing empathy by having an open, non-judgmental conversation about the issues.

He says, “This is soooooo difficult for [nannies and] parents, because you want to teach, to instruct, and to guide. But if the child is not open to your teaching, instruction, or guidance, they will not hear you. What might create this openness is their experience of you both listening to them and accepting what they have to say.”

The psychotherapist illustrates that to connect to kids you must listen without commentary, listen without judgment, listen without advice.

Bumgarner instructs caregivers to simply listen to what the child has to say and then, when we do talk, merely summarize what we have heard.

He recommends, “Don’t add your thoughts— have it be all about their thoughts, perspectives, and points of view.”

Former teacher and author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Advocating for Your Child with Special Needs, Amanda Morin agrees that empathy is the way to connect with children.

Morin teaches that empathy isn’t sympathy. It isn’t about feeling sorry about the child, it’s about understanding how they are feeling and letting them know you understand.

Here are Morin’s four components of empathy:

1. Taking his perspective: Putting your own feelings and reactions aside to see the situation through the child’s eyes.

2. Putting aside judgment:
Not jumping to and expressing conclusions about your child’s situation.

3. Understanding the child’s feelings: Tapping into your own experiences to find a way to get what the child is feeling or to remember a time when you felt the same way. (Be careful not to overdo it, however. The child’s experiences are her own).
Communicating that you understand: Letting the child express himself without using “fix it” phrases like “what you need to do is….” Instead, try reflective phrases like, “It sounds like you…” or “I hear that you….”

4. Listen without making any comments: As your nanny kids get older, replace punishments and rewards by listening more to them without interrupting, making judgments, or giving advice.



Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation: What’s the Difference by Kendra Cherry

The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Advocating for Your Child with Special Needs

Portable Vibrating Products to Calm Newborns

Products Nannies Love

I love Dr. Harvey Karp’s concepts of how to comfort newborns in his book The Happiest Baby on the Block. Through his work with newborns, pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp found that most fussy babies are soothed by harnessing the calming reflex through “shushing” and constant motion reminiscent of the womb.

Click here to see our review of Dr. Karp’s Happiest Baby on the Block.

Swings and white noise machines are most helpful in calming newborns. The products reviewed today are portable options that nannies can use both at home and while out and about and on the go.


Early in her career as a maternity nurse, Melissa (inventor of Tranquilo Mat) became a certified Happiest Baby Educator as part of the famous soothing 5 S’s outlined in The Happiest Baby on the Block.   After learning these methods, Melissa brought these techniques back to the hospital nursery and earned herself the nickname “The Baby Whisperer” amongst her fellow nurses. Teaching the techniques to thousands of first time parents, Melissa saw how difficult it was for parents to execute them consistently while also adjusting to life with a new baby.

One night while caring for a group of infants, Melissa was unable to pick up all of the babies to soothe them. Instead, she used each hand and foot to manually rock multiple bassinets and incubators all while “Shhh-ing” at full volume. That’s when the idea struck and Tranquilo Mat was born.

The Tranquilo Mat combines the comfort of vibrations with white noise. The mat is easy to use during naps or bedtime, as well as mid-day meltdowns, and is especially good for colicky babies.

The large mat provides hands-free soothing when placed under a baby on top of a mattress, hard surface, or activity gym. The small mat is the most portable and easy to transfer place to place and can be used with a car seat, placed over the baby’s lap after the baby has been properly buckled in, or in a carrier.

There are three levels of vibrations that can be customized to baby’s needs. Two heartbeat modes provide waves of sounds and motion similar to what baby experienced in the womb. Battery operated and cord-free, up to 60 hours of soothing vibrations depending on size and setting.

Lulla-Vibe Vibrating Mattress Pad

The Lulla-Vibe is a portable, battery operated, cord-free, mattress vibrator that provides 24+ hours of soothing vibrations. The pad easily slips under a crib mattress or bassinet and creates gentle, soothing vibrations to help lull baby to sleep. The convenient portable design even allows you to soothe on the go.

Summer Infant Soothe and Vibe

The Summer Infant Soothe and Vibe Portable Soother is a portable soothing unit that helps relax baby anywhere. The vibration gives the baby the comfort of movement even when standing still. Includes 5 white noise, lullaby, and heart beat sounds for additional soothing. This portable soother has two attachment options: hook and loops or retractable clips attach to most infant items including cribs, bassinets, play yards, strollers, and carriers. It also has an automatic 20-minute shutoff with adjustable volume and vibration speeds.

Children’s Books About 4th of July

Weekly Trip to the Library Next week American’s celebrate their Independence from Great Britain on the 4th of July. Independence Day is commonly celebrated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, picnics, concerts, political speeches and ceremonies celebrating the history, government, and traditions of the United States. Get the kids in your care in the mood for the […]

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Patriotic Cake Roll

Cooking for Kids Independence Day is coming up on the Fourth of July. Making red, white, and blue desserts using berries is an expected treat for the national holiday. Click here to see the original recipe for this Berry Angel Food Cake Roll. To make the recipe even easier we used an angel food cake […]

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Firework Rings

Fourth of July Craft I’m not sure where I first saw this simple Fourth of July craft but I have been making it for years with my nanny kids. Any aged child — from preschool to teen — can make these easy, inexpensive rings in just a few minutes.  Experiment cutting the pipe cleaners in […]

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Glitter Slime

Science Fun Kids love science. Kids love slime. Summer is a great time to make glitter slime since you can make this project outside in the nice weather. I recommend making glitter slime outside since glitter can be messy. In this project the sodium borate in the liquid starch mixes with the polyvinyl-acetate (PVA) glue […]

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Mealtime Manners are Important

Table Manners Star Chart Nannies must help teach their nanny kids table manners by modeling proper manners. Shiela Ellison, author of 365 Ways to Raise Confident Kids explains that manners are behaviors that reflect awareness of other people’s feelings. It takes time to teach kids socially acceptable behavior. This learning happens each day within the […]

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EWG Best Sunscreens for Kids

Does Your Sunscreen Make the List? Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) rates the best sunscreens. The EWG selected the sunscreens below that are marketed for use on babies and children. The EWG recommends using lotions rather than sunscreen sticks because some studies indicate that people tend to apply too little sunscreen when using […]

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Father’s Day Shirt Cards

Creative Wednesdays Fathers Day is on the third Sunday of June in America. You don’t need to buy expensive gifts for your employer for Father’s Day. Instead, make this very simple and inexpensive card with the kids to give to their father. You Will Need: Brightly Colored Card Stock Buttons Scissors Glue Ruler Pencil What […]

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What I Love About Dad Journal

Father’s Day Gift Dad’s love personalized gifts from their sons and daughters. Help your nanny kids make this gift for their father. What I Love about Dad contains fill-in-the-blank lines for your nanny kids to describe why their pops is tops.  Just complete each line and voilà: you have a uniquely personal gift he’ll read again […]

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