Every child needs to know their boundaries – and each child is different – what works for one child may not work for others. Some children only need asking once, others have to be nagged into submission!
The child psychologists recommend that you focus on the positive so that kids get points, stars, stickers or some other unit for doing good things, but NOT black marks or points taken away for misbehaving.
How are rewards earned?
Before the reward system goes into action, everyone – including grandparents – need to understand what activities earn rewards. These should not be doing the household tasks expected as a norm – like putting clothes into the washing basket or tidying the bedroom – but for exceptional behaviour. This might include doing things without being asked, being kind or thoughtful to others in the family and the community.
To help the children to work towards earning rewards, it’s important they are clear about how they’re earned.
If you have more than one child, the reward system will need to take into account the ages of the children. Older kids may need to do more to earn their rewards than younger children.
Be sure to guard against over-indulgent grandparents dishing out rewards because their little grandson smiled at them!
What will a reward be?
Ideally, it’s a number of smaller things that add up to a reward. This may be a sticker, or star on a chart or something physical like a marble or cotton balls in a jar. Completing the sticker chart, or filling the jar to the required level delivers a reward for the child.
Edible rewards aren’t advisable as you are teaching the child to see sweets or treats as rewards. This can install a comfort-eating habit that’s not good for their long-term health.
You could visit the pound store and get toys or games that your kids will like, or you could make the reward an activity, whether that’s going swimming, ice-skating, visiting the cinema or something else that they like to do.
Whatever the reward is to be, it’s a good move to consult with the kids about what they would find motivational. If the reward isn’t something they’re interested in, they won’t want to bother working towards it.
As kids get older, the reward might be a deposit in a savings account towards something they’re saving for. However, be careful about offering money as a reward, it doesn’t create the same effect as an experience or activity. You will need to judge what your children will respond to best.
It’s not a competition
If you have more than one child, remember this is not a competitive activity. If one child completes their sticker chart or fills their jar with marbles, it doesn’t mean that the others have failed.
The aim is for each child to aim to complete their chart or fill their jar – it’s not a race to the finish. That’s the quickest way to discourage children from trying.
Every sticker or marble is worth praise. If you don’t recognise the individual achievements, then you can find some children will actively find ways to get noticed. And if they’re not getting attention for getting it right, guess what they may resort to!