Effective Ways to Reward a Child

Reward with Recognition and Affection

Catch your child doing something good: treating a sibling with respect, eating with good table manners, bringing home good work from school. These are great times to let your child know that you are proud of them. Acknowledging their good work can be very powerful, it reinforces good behavior.

We often correct or punish our children when they are bothering us. His singing is ear piercing. They shriek or cry when no one is truly hurt. I yell at my kids on a regular basis for jumping on the couch because, “its dangerous!” But really, it’s not that dangerous. I just don’t want them to do it because I don’t want to be embarrassed when they start jumping on someone else’s couch. I don’t want them to get dirty because I don’t want to clean them up. Avoid sending a message to your child that they are annoying you. Try to redirect their behavior instead of punishing whatever they are doing that is irritating.

Create A System

Create a system that combines immediate gratification, for an insignificant reward, with delayed gratification for a significant reward (object or activity). My son’s first grade teacher has a monetary reward system where kids can earn “mickey money” for a variety of tasks. At the end of the school year the students can purchase real items from an auction with their Mickey Money. My son has quite literally bought into the system. He will do almost anything for Mickey Money and it’s just a piece of paper. He knows it will have some value later, but right now, it means nothing, and yet earning it yields real satisfaction.

A similar example would be the jar reward system. Each child has a jar that needs to be filled with objects; marbles, cotton balls, or pom-poms work well. Provide the objects to your child for good behavior or good work. Fill the jar faster for younger children, particularly when you are first starting the rewards system. When the items in the jar reach the predetermined height or fill line, the child gets to pick an object or activity they desire. Or they can continue to fill the jar to earn a greater reward. This type of system teaches a child about delayed gratification. The smaller objects still have value because earning them communicates to the child that they did something deserving of a reward.

Don’t Reward Too Often

Let “no” be your default to the many, many desires your child will come up with: “Can I get new headphones?” “Can I go to Chuck E Cheeses?” or “Can I watch TV?” It doesn’t matter what the question is. Just let “No” be your default and then reconsider whether your child should have the privilege of that new object or activity. It’s important for children to consider the difference between something they want and need. This doesn’t mean I don’t allow for anything. Sometimes financial restraint is a deciding factor, but even if cash flow is lucrative, children can learn a lot from not having the best and the brightest new items.

In Conclusion

Your time/love/affection/attention are always the best reward. Treat your child to a special outing. Play a game together. Put your work aside and to read to them. Children are never too old to hear how much you love them. Girls are especially critical of their looks during the preteen/teenage years. Tell your daughter she is beautiful. Even if she doesn’t think she is, she still hears you, and there is a part of her that believes you. This is how you raise healthy emotionally stable children. Love them. Be honest with them. Don’t give them everything they want.

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