the right reward system for your kids can bring benefits for the whole family.
As parents, we’ve all been there. The eye rolls,
tantrums and indignant looks whenever we ask our child to clean up, brush their
teeth or stop that incessant yelling. But pulling your misbehaving munchkin
into line needn’t be a tiresome tug of war. With the right reward system in
place, you can encourage your child to pull their weight and smarten up their
behaviour – without the tears and frayed tempers.
Reward systems are a powerful means of positive
reinforcement for kids, and an essential part of almost every mum and dad’s
parenting toolkit. They work by rewarding desired behaviour, such as using good
manners and completing chores, and discouraging bad behaviour, like fighting
Parenting expert and counselling psychotherapist Dr Karen Phillip says reward systems should be used as a guide for children, but parents mustn’t fall into the trap of feeling like they have to offer kids an incentive every time they want something done.
“It provides a clear indication of what you want the child to do or achieve,” says Dr Phillip. “We want to remain cautious a child does not expect a reward for every job or good behaviour they exhibit. This needs to be developed through pride of the child feeling good about themselves for accomplishing something they feel is meaningful.”
The key to any good reward system is clearly
articulating the goals: what exactly is it you want your child to do? Write up
a list of the tasks and behaviours that will be rewarded; this should be done
in collaboration with your child so that they take ownership of the system and
feel empowered to participate. Next, identify some rewards with your child that
you can do together. Perhaps you can see a movie, visit the zoo or go bike
riding. Lastly, work out the parameters for giving a reward. Will it be weekly,
monthly or whenever a set target is reached?
Choosing your system
1. Reward board
There are myriad different reward systems you can
introduce at home. One of the most popular is the reward board. Write up a
chart with the desired behaviours and reward your wee one with a sticker, stamp
or star every time they hit the mark. Come good on the reward once they reach
Pros: The reward board is extremely versatile and can
constantly be adapted to suit your child. You can break it down into days of
the week, add and remove items, and personalise the chart to target problem behaviours,
like bedtime mischief.
Cons: Kids can become overwhelmed, so try to focus on core
tasks and behaviours.
2. Marble jar
The marble jar system acts like a behaviour barometer.
Add a marble every time your child is good, remove one when they’re bad, and
offer a reward when the jar is full.
Pros: Kids respond to visual stimuli and will be motivated
and excited to see the jar fill up. It’s a simple, flexible system with a
clearly defined target.
Cons: The system doesn’t differentiate between tasks and
behaviours, so it can be difficult to tackle problem areas.
chore sticks system works on a similar philosophy to the marble jar, minus some
of the shortcomings. Write chores like “tidy room” on icy pole sticks and put
them in a jar labelled “to do”. When the chores are completed, move them into
the “done” jar and give a reward for your chosen number of finished tasks.
Pros: This system differentiates between chores and
encourages kids to identify and proactively seek out jobs they can complete.
Con: Chore sticks are just that – great for rewarding chores
but not so good for reinforcing general good behaviours.
Whatever system you choose, stay calm, be committed and
remember, the carrot works better than the stick.
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