Rewarding Kids – Top Ten Tips

Why would we reward our kids for good behaviour?

Don’t know about you, but I don’t do nowt for free. Who does?

When it’s date night and I’ve made an effort to smooth down the Ken Dodd head and paint over the eye bags, I do expect a – ‘you look nice.’

On a Friday, when I flop down on the sofa, proud that I’ve survived another week of parenting without punching anyone in the face, or running away to live in India as a nomad, I crack myself open a cold one because – hell yeah, I’m gonna reward myself!

Mummy’s reward on a Friday… ok any day of the week, who am I kidding.

When I’ve run six miles on a cold, nipple freezing Sunday morning, you bet your life I’m gonna have that sticky toffee pudding with ice cream after my pub lunch.

When we work, we get paid. If we excel in work, we may get bonuses. When we’re kind, we get thanks. When we’re good at something, we get positive attention. Whether it be praise from our peers or likes on a posts.

Nothing is without reward.

So how can we use this knowledge to get our kids to behave well?

Rewards are motivation for good behaviour my friends. FACT. So if you want your kids to behave you have to reward them.

As a teacher this was key to getting kids to tow the line. 

Teachers use rewards to get children to behave well every day.

But – do you?

A reward can be as simple as giving your child attention and praise when they run out of school with a picture they’ve painted. It could be a thank you and a big squeeze when they remember to put their socks in the dirty wash basket. It can be dangling an enticing carrot as a reward for tackling a specific tricky, problem behavior.

This is our prize box. It’s stuffed full of cheap, desirable little rewards. I set up a reward chart. When they hit a certain amount of stickers, they choose their prize.

Here’s my top ten tips on rewarding kids for good behaviour:

  1. Clarity – Be clear about what you expect. When you’re rewarding them always explain why and make a big deal of it. If you say something, always follow through.
  2. Consistency – Always be consistent with rules, expectations and outcomes.
  3. Make it Visual – Get a sticker chart, a jar to fill with buttons or marbles, or reward chart app.
  4. The Rule of Three – If you want to tackle specific behaviours, do not choose more than three to focus on at a time.
  5. Ownership – Let your child choose their reward (within reason).
  6. Don’t always go materialistic – yes, the reward can be – a fun day out, or a physical prize e.g. a magazine or toy, but, half an hour of mummy time, where you play a game or do something nice together can be just as effective.
  7. Positive praise – Get on their level, give them eye contact, be enthusiastic, even over the top if they are younger. Mix it up. Don’t just say – ‘good boy/girl.’ Tell them they are – clever, kind, helpful, nice, thoughtful or strong.
  8. Feelings – talk about how good behaviour brings emotional reward – it makes mummy happy, proud, less stressed. Question them – How does it make you feel?
  9. Physical affirmation – a kiss, a hug, a squeeze of the shoulder or a stroke of the cheek rewards them physically.
  10. Immediacy – The rewards need to happen sooner rather than later. Immediate rewards e.g. praise, a food treat, stickers or ipad time work really well, but if you set a reward in the future make sure it’s not weeks or months away. It should be five/six days max e.g. good behaviour all week gets a reward on the weekend.  
My daughter’s prize for hitting her behaviour targets all week, was a bowling trip. Yay!


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