How can we reward children responsibly?
From time to time I felt really hopeless as we were apparently going around the same issues day by day with my Little One…
“Brush your teeth.”
” Get dressed.”
“Come, we need to leave.”
Or the other way around 😅:
“I want you to buy me this.”
It is not necessarily the best solution to try making your kid do the “right behavior” by using parental authority and simply forcing him or her to follow your orders. Even I think we all gave it a try.😅
However, what I realized is that rewarding is more rewarding 😊
But how do you reward your child in a way that leads to common happiness? The first issue I tried to fix with “organizing our reward system” was stopping everyday tantrums before leaving home. I understand totally it is more fun to stay at home or go to the ZOO instead of kindergarten (& work for me)… but life is not only about fun. Unfortunately 😕
So we prepared a reward board and got some smiling face stickers. The plan was that she could collect stickers every day when we managed to leave the house in peace or leave for home from kindergarten (yes, in the mornings “I do not want to go to kindergarten”, in the afternoons “I do not want to go home”… funny, right? No, just when it is not your own kid doing that 😆), and when we start the bedtime routine (so in total max. 3/day). Win-win you know 😀 The interesting thing was that even the recognition of the desirable behavior was a huuuge motivation!
In addition, after collecting 70 stickers (which means min. 24 days – but obviously it took longer, as not every day was a full success), she would get a small present that she selected when we started the whole stop-tantrums-by-rewarding-great-behavior project. And she did it. The improvement in her behavior and our quality of life became visible sooner than I expected! However, I intentionally wanted to set a longer period for the whole process to ensure that the results stay with us.
Obviously, all families are different, and so are the issues we need to face.
However, I collected the top 6 advice that you can adapt and use when setting up your reward system!
1. Cut the big goal into smaller units
Setting up big goals is great. But do not forget to make them feasible and reachable by cutting them into smaller units. It is especially important with smaller kids! I realize from time to time that if I ask for something more complex, even my daughter is willing to help me, but simply feels she is not able as it all sounds too much to understand. Or if you take our example from above with the daily tantrums, I cut one day into 3 smaller units. So even if the morning was not successful, she could still get stickers in the afternoon. This was really helpful to keep her motivated.
2. Do not only consider what is ahead of you but also celebrate what you already achieved
Motivation is the key to success in such processes. But even with the most careful planning, you might feel sometimes that the whole process is stuck. Do not forget to celebrate what you already achieved! This is important for both you and your kid! Do you have tantrums every 2nd morning? Great, this means every other morning is better than it was before! Your kid missed the last few sticker options? But look how many he or she got previously! Keep your eyes on your goal, but do not forget to celebrate the small achievements!
3. Make your kid interested in reaching the goal
As I mentioned, for us even the recognition of the desired behavior gave important positive feedback to both of us. We had great discussions about why is it important to have smoother mornings (afternoons and evenings), and that we both felt better and more relaxed. So making your kid interested in reaching the goal not necessarily means money or prizes! In our example we used a small prize too – I think with smaller kids that might still be essential. But we recently applied to a “reading competition” organized by a company specializing in “correspondence competitions”. So I am reading the book and the tasks, and she is doing them, where our “prize” is the quality time we spend together. We might win some physical prize too after the second round, but we do not expect it, the emphasis is on having fun while fulfilling all the tasks by the deadline – which is our goal now. 😊
4. Work together as a team
As a parent, it is so easy to mess up motivation and reward 😅 The temptation can be huge to help your kid and do certain tasks instead of him or her. You might think you are helping if you just finish the coloring of that tree in the competition, as she does not feel like doing it now and the deadline is approaching. And even if in the short term you save the day, in the long run, your message is that “my parents will find a solution, so it does not matter if I am not fulfilling what my job is”. Well, I think we all try to avoid it. And try to find a balance between being supportive and doing the tasks instead of them. What might work better is if you realize that your child is stuck in the process and about to lose motivation, turn to him or her, ask about what are the difficulties, tell stories of how you faced similar cases, and give examples and be an example of persistence 😊
5. Be prepared for failure as well
For me, this is the hardest part. I hate failure. Just ask my Mum what happened when it was not me as a kid winning in board games… 😅🙈 So even though there is still some place for improvement for myself, I try to make my Little One understand that there are no ups without downs, and it is OK to have a bad day or mess up something. Just try not to hurt anyone and correct your mistakes.
(Btw this is a message for myself as a parent as well…)
6. Stay honest when acknowledging a result
Rewarding is really important, and supporting your child in reaching the goals set is as well. But behind the appreciation, there should be hard work done. Try to avoid overpraising! Focus on the results achieved, and be as specific as possible when giving compliments.
Rewarding can be rewarding for the whole family if done with some planning and organization. Find a great Reward Chart, to make rewarding your child easier!😊