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How to Create a Reward System for Children

A discipline technique that promotes good behaviors


© Peter Lourenco/Moment/Getty Images

Reward systems provide an excellent behavior modification strategy to help children learn to take responsibility for managing their own behaviors. Reward systems teach children to earn their privileges and in conjunction with other discipline strategies, reward systems can be a great addition to a comprehensive behavior management plan. Children from toddlers through teenagers can benefit from earnings rewards when they are used as part of an age-appropriate discipline strategy.

Reward Systems for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Toddlers and preschoolers can often benefit from simple sticker charts. Allow kids to decorate their charts to get them motivated to earn stickers. Then choose stickers that your child will like get excited about earning.

Make sure the sticker chart is displayed prominently in the house. Young children are often very proud of their accomplishments and want to ensure everyone is aware they have earned stickers. Use praise to help keep them extra motivated to keep earning stickers.

Choose one behavior to work on at a time. Behaviors that can work well with a sticker chart include things such as using the toilet and staying in their own bed at night. Provide a sticker immediately after you see the desired behavior as this will provide positive reinforcement for good behavior.

Read More: Solutions to the 5 Most Common Preschool Behavior Problems

Reward Systems for School Age Children

School age children can handle a slightly more complex of a reward system. Stickers alone are not usually enough of a motivator anymore. Instead, they can benefit from exchanging stickers for bigger rewards.

For example, a seven-year-old can benefit from knowing that when she earns three stickers she can go to the playground. Children of this age are able to delay gratification a little, but not too long. So make sure they can earn rewards on a regular basis. Depending on your child, a reward may be necessary daily, every few days, or weekly.

Sit down with your child and explain the reward system. For example, tell her, “When you earn three stickers, we will go to the park to play. This is how you earn stickers…” Allow your child an opportunity to ask questions and become involved in suggesting rewards she wants to earn.

Reward Systems for Tweens

Tweens can benefit from more complicated systems with bigger rewards. Remember, that rewards don’t have to cost money.

Rewards also don’t have to be extra things your child earns. Instead, you can use privileges that your child already has in place. Instead of taking away privileges for misbehaviors, allow your child to earn privileges such as time using the television, telephone, computer, or video games a privilege that needs to be earned.

Tweens may feel too old for “stickers” so you can use a system where they earn check marks or tokens. A token economy system allows them to earn tokens throughout the day that can be exchanged for reward items. For example, two tokens may be equivalent to thirty minutes of television.

Pick up to three behaviors to address at a time. Pick at least one behavior that your child already does fairly well. This can help your child feel successful which is important in keeping Tweens motivated.

Read More: Top 10 Discipline Techniques for Tweens

Reward Systems for Teenagers

Teenagers will outgrow formal reward charts and systems. However, this doesn’t mean you have to get rid of reward systems all together. Create a behavior management contract to link privileges to specific behavior.

For example, make the privilege of spending time with friends on the weekends linked to a teen getting all of his homework done on time for the week. Only allow a teen to borrow the car if he has done all of his chores on time throughout the week. Don’t give teens money unless they have earned it.

Electronics are also another privilege that works well for many teens. Consider giving them their cell phone privileges each day only after their homework and chores are completed. Just make sure that you establish clear rules ahead of time so that they understand what is expected of them each day.

Read More: Effective Methods for Disciplining Older Teens

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