Everyone responds to incentives. There is an ongoing conversation in many homes and schools today about incentives. Many people believe there is a problem with students (and children in general) needing tangible rewards to behave appropriately and push to better themselves. I have mixed feelings on this topic that I would like explore, as well as offer some tangible and non-tangible rewards to offer your child.
As I mentioned, people respond to incentives. Incentives are a positive reinforcement for words and actions. Kids respond very differently to various situations. A toolbox of reinforcements creates a well-prepared parent. You now have the opportunity to effectively reward your child. You will need different rewards based on the age of your child and what action you are rewarding.
Toddlers and Preschoolers
A lot is happening in the life of your little one at this age, and these years set the stage for success later in life. Tangible rewards are easy and cheap at this point. It is simple for very young children to make the connection between action and reward. Make the reward obvious for your child. Language is not a strong skill for some kids. Having a treat in hand reinforces that they have done something right. Make sure the reward fits the action: for bigger and higher-value actions you should provide a bigger and/or better reward. Rank skills in order of importance and reward accordingly. Ensure the reward is given immediately. Parents should agree on the incentives and act together for their child. Home and school may use different reward systems. Using the same skills, language, and incentives is a great way parents can connect with their children’s schools and encourage them to respond in both areas. Treats, stickers charts, and dollar store toys are some common ideas for rewards.
Older kids have a much better grasp of the concept of time. They understand working towards a goal, or being rewarded in the future. The incentives at this point are limitless. Utilizing tangible as well as non-tangible rewards is the best way to keep things exciting and motivating. Treats and toys still apply, but favorite dinners or breakfasts, having friends over, special dates with family members, movies, and money go so much farther at this point. Children with siblings may never get time alone with mom or dad. Setting up a special one-on-one date is a great way to reward a child and for you to spend quality time with them. Taking a class together, fixing a meal, taking a bike ride, doing arts and crafts, and special dinners (including productive conversation) are great alternatives to toys or treats. The more people who know what the child is working towards the bigger the payout is at the end. Congratulations from a group of “important” people always feels good. As always, involve your child in this process and ask them what they would like to earn. Give them a choice or some ideas so that they are picking what rewards they are working towards Also, ask them what they think is a fair punishment for not doing the task or not making good decisions. Often times, children surprise their parents at the fairness of punishments they give themselves.
Whether you choose to reward you child with gifts, words, or acts of kindness, reward them often. Being rewarded and recognized for even the smallest things can turn a bad day into a great day. Something as simple as telling your child, “Great Job,” can mean a lot.
As this topic is so widely discussed, I would love to hear from you. What ways have you rewarded your child? What actions do you reward? What are your thoughts on tangible rewards? Do you believe we reward today’s youth too often? Thanks in advance for sharing!
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