One of the hardest things about being a mother is to have the energy to be creative. I know our boys were much more likely to be engaged if we could make the activity fun.  Even cleaning their rooms or eating their vegetables (never had much luck with that one!) could be turned into a game. You may do clever things you don’t even notice: “Hey, let’s see how fast you can run to the mailbox and get the mail…quick….I’ll time you!”  Although I am not big on paying children to do things, I’m am not above a little incentive sometimes.

When the boys were pretty young, we came up with a fun challenge that ended up having great long lasting results. Here is how it worked. From Thanksgiving to Christmas (like right now!), we had a little role playing at home about how to introduce yourself.  This would include a nice firm (but not bone crushing!) handshake and most important – eye contact. Then we told the boys that for every person they introduced themselves to, using all these important elements, they would earn a quarter. Of course, you might have to adjust for the youngest ones like, “Hi, I’m William!” might count. Then, right before Christmas, they would use that money to buy Christmas presents for the whole family. No saving allowed – you don’t want them to cheap-out on presents and keep the loot for themselves. Naturally, the most fertile money making ground was coffee hour at church.  The little old ladies were thrilled when a little one looked their way. The grocery store could be quite lucrative as well. It was pretty cute, funny and surprising to some folks when our kids went up to specifically say hello to them.  Oh yeah, another family member had to be a witness or you might get some tall tales (i.e. highly inflated numbers) on the way home from church. But the very best part is seeing your children’s glee in wrapping and stowing their little gifts under the tree, that they paid with from money they earned. And then the hopping back and forth from one foot to the other in anticipation of others’ opening their gifts. Is there anything more gratifying than seeing your child excited about giving and not just getting? It is certainly close to the top for me.

We did this for a number of years and without us really noticing, our children got more and more comfortable talking to adults and looking them in the eye when they spoke. Now maybe I just had gregarious children but I think this little game actually made a difference. The people who received these greetings from our children were so complimentary that a self-esteem boost was an added benefit. Bottom line: If there is a lesson you want to really sink in with your children, get creative and make it fun!