Reward systems can be one of the best discipline practices to help kids manage their behaviors. Rewarding kids doesn’t mean you need to offer them expensive gifts or big ticket items. Instead, there are many rewards that don’t cost money.
The most important part of a reward system is your child’s motivation to earn the reward. Therefore, use some creativity to help find rewards that will excite your child. Rewards should be specific to your child, based on your child’s temperament. If your child grows bored or isn’t motivated to earn the reward, you’ll need to find new positive consequences that will work as an incentive.
Praising kids can be the most effective reward of all and best of all, praise is free. Kids love to know that you’re noticing them when they’re doing well and giving them some extra attention for their good behaviors can go a long way in motivating them to keep up the good work. Catch them being good and praise their efforts often.
There are times when praise isn’t enough and kids need a little extra incentive. A reward system can be a great way to provide that extra motivation to work on specific behaviors. Get creative and you’ll find lots of opportunities for rewards that don’t cost any money.Later bedtime- Although some parents are hesitant to allow kids to stay up later, allowing kids to stay up an extra 15 minutes isn’t likely to cause them to be overtired the next day. A later bedtime can be a big motivator for kids. Younger kids will often feel like a “big kid” and it can be a great incentive if they are able to stay up later than their siblings. If you have a child who has difficulty sleeping though, choose a different incentive or only offer it on nights when they can sleep in the next day.
Special activity- Choose a special activity that will motivate your child. Some examples of free activities include playing a board game, going for a walk, playing at the park, or an extra story at bedtime. Look for free community events and utilize resources like your local library which often have special events.
Extra electronics- Kids should earn their time with electronics. Allow kids to earn up to two hours per night of TV, computer, and video game time. Although it can be tempting for some parents to give kids free reign with electronics, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids only be allowed two hours per day of screen time.
Food rewards- Although it’s not a good idea to offer junk food as an incentive, there are some ways to use mealtimes as a free reward. For example, allow kids to choose what’s for dinner or let them earn an indoor picnic. Get creative and build a fort out of blankets and eat under the glow of a flashlight. For other kids, baking a special treat together may be a great motivator.
Coupons- Coupons can be a great way to reward kids. For example, kids love to earn coupons that say things such as “get out of having to do one chore” or “get to stay up 15 minutes later” and allow them to turn them in whenever they want.
Token Economy System- Token economy systems provide kids with chips or tokens on a daily basis that can later be exchanged for rewards. Provide kids with a varied reward menu that allows them to earn bigger rewards. You can offer free rewards such as “a trip to the park” in exchange for 10 tokens. Sticker charts can be very rewarding for younger children.