Three Keys to Motivating Your Children

Dale Carnegie said, “Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.” Dale Carnegie wrote one of the world’s best-selling motivational self-help books of all time, How to Win Friends and Influence People, in 1936. This book has sold over 30 million copies and still appears on bestseller lists, even to this day.

Maybe Dale Carnegie should have written a special book on toilet-training for toddlers. He could have called it, How to Win Friends and Influence Toddlers. He would have made a fortune. Then again, perhaps he already did. Let me explain.

My grandson is being toilet-trained, and it is quite the challenge. His mother is his main tutor, ably assisted by his Dad. Alison and I play a small part as Grandad and Grandma. It is a fascinating process.

Neither my daughter-in-law or my son have ever read How to Win Friends and Influence People, but without knowing, they have used Carnegie’s wisdom for handling people strategically.

Dale Carnegie details the three keys for handling people in his book. It could well have been three keys to toilet-train a child. Better still, Three Keys to Motivate Your Children.

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

  1. Don’t criticise, condemn, or complain. Human nature does not like to admit fault. When people are criticised or humiliated, they rarely respond well, and will often become defensive and resent their critic. To handle people well, we must never criticise, condemn or complain, because it will never result in the behavior we desire.
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation. Appreciation is one of the most powerful tools in the world. People will rarely work at their maximum potential under criticism, but honest appreciation brings out their best. Appreciation, though, is not simple flattery — it must be sincere, meaningful and with love.
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want. To get what we want from another person, we must forget our own perspective and begin to see things from others’ point of view. When we can combine our desires with their wants, they become eager to work with us and we can mutually achieve our objectives.

Change is always hard. When you have had a nappy all your life to catch your poo, it is hard to think in terms of using the toilet. Herein lies the challenge, as once the nappy is removed, there is great risk involved.

There are many ‘accidents’ along the way, and the worst possible thing you can do is criticise, condemn or complain to your child about his or her lack of progress. Instead, you have to champion their success at every turn.

My grandson’s parents have set up a treat system, where one wee is worth one sweet, one small poo the same. On the other hand, a big poo is worth two sweeties, not to mention lots of ‘hearty approbation and lots of lavish praise’.

“Did you do a big poo in the pottie? Really! How amazing!!!
Let’s do a high five. Hey, I am proud of you!”

You should see his face light up when Mum and Dad, Grandma and Grandad turn on the lavish praise. He looks and feels invincible, that is until the next accident on the living room floor. That is the time we must all hold our peace, because as Dale Carnegie said, “Never criticise, condemn or complain.

Carnegie uses the example of Charles Schwab throughout his book, as someone who exemplifies all the tenets Carnegie preaches. Schwab, a wealthy USA steelmaker, used praise as the foundation of all his relationships.

In my wide association in life, meeting with many and great people in various parts of the world,” Schwab declared, “I have yet to find a person, however great or exalted in their station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than they would have ever done under a spirit of criticism.” Maybe Charles should have written a book, How to Make Steel and Toilet Train a Toddler Too. He would have made a fortune.

The good news is that our grandson is responding well to Dale Carnegie’s three-point plan. He even climbed up on the toilet yesterday, unsupervised, and did a big poo all on his own. The rejoicing has not stopped!

Mind you, this process still has its ups and downs. A few days ago, after using the pottie (a poo and a wee — unassisted), my grandson helped himself to the treat stash in the cupboard by climbing up on the benchtop. Mum and Dad weren’t in close proximity. The amount of sweeties he consumed in his private praise party would have been the equivalent of 5 big poos and 11 wees.

We are all hoping he sees this as a down-payment on his future ability to place his waste products safely and securely in the toilet where they belong. The sweets are now out of reach and time will tell!


We can all learn from training our children. As Dale Carnegie says, “Any fool can criticise, condemn or complain, and most fools do.” When it comes to being a father who wants to motivate his children, or for that matter, just in general life or in management, “Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.

Yours for lavish praise,
Warwick Marsh

[Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash]

By |2021-01-15T21:18:50+10:00January 16th, 2021|Children|0 Comments

About the Author:

Warwick Marsh has been married to Alison Marsh since 1975; they have five children and nine grandchildren, and he and his wife live in Wollongong in NSW, Australia. He is a family and faith advocate, social reformer, musician, TV producer, writer and public speaker.

Warwick is a leader in the Men’s and Family Movement, and he is well-known in Australia for his advocacy for children, marriage, manhood, family, fatherhood and faith. Warwick is passionate to encourage men to be great fathers and to know the greatest Father of all. The Father in Whom “there is no shadow of turning.”

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