Do your kids expect rewards BEFORE they will do anything? Are they always asking "What do I get", or "What will you give me?" Do you have to bribe them so they will get started on a task, or do what you have asked them? OR… have you ever found yourself offering bribes so your child will stop throwing a fit, clean their room, or get their homework done? It is okay to give small incentives now and again. There isn’t a parent out there who hasn’t done it. But, if our kids will only respond when they "get something", it is time to make some changes. Research shows us that…
- Rewards elicit a quick fix, but not a long term solution.
- Kids who only respond when given rewards are less likely to be self-reliant. At 2 this might not seem like a big deal, but as a young adult and adult, this is big trouble.
- Eventually kids become addicted to the rewards and bribes and demand bigger and better. At first your daughter might require one sucker to be obedient. But before you know it, one sucker won’t do it and she will demand the whole bag.
- When children are rewarded with candy for normal everyday tasks, the children will care more about the treats than the task.
- Research shows that when parents reward their children for being kind and sharing with other kids, the kids actually become less giving and less cooperative over time than children who are raised without the constant rewards.
Here are some solutions you can use to get the behavior you desire, without your children expecting something in return.
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My husband learned his lesson about rewards last school year. Our son was not finishing his timed math tests at school. They were too easy for him and he would get bored and start to day dream and doodle. So, one day after school my husband told our son that if he finished his test he would get 50 dollars to spend at his favorite toy store. He came home from school the next day with a 100 percent on his completed math test. But, the week after that he came home with an unfinished test again. The next week, another unfinished test.
Internally Motivative – Wean Your Kids
- If you are guilty of always giving material rewards such as treats and toys, begin replacing those with stickers. Once stickers become your main reward, start replacing those with encouraging words and praise. Over time the praise will turn into internal motivation and your kids will do things because it makes them happy and feel good.
- Delay rewards. Young children need instant recognition. Use praise. Tell them how good they did. Ask small children how it makes them feel to do such a good job. With older children wait a little bit before you reward and praise. Start by waiting a few hours to point out the good dead or success. Then wait a day or two. This will teach kids to do things for the right reason, not for an instant reward.
- Get your kids involved. Instead of promising a new toy if your son finishes his math test. Get your son involved in a solution to take the place of the reward. "Your not finishing your math tests. What can you do so that you can finish your test this week?"
We want our kids to exhibit good behavior, but we don’t want to be throwing candy, money and toys at them all the time. So what are some other ways to reward?
1. Give one-on-one time as a reward. Kids crave attention. They long for us to listen to them, talk to them, and play with them. Set aside individual time with each of your children. Your time together will mean far more to them than a new toy or a favorite treat.
2. Go to favorite places as a reward. Instead of giving your children candy or new toys for a reward, take them somewhere special. Let them choose. It could be a special park, bowling, a local museum, or a trip to the bookstore to see what’s new. No need to buy a book, looking will suffice. (Remember, too many material rewards teach children that if they are good, they should get a treat. We want them to act good because it is the right thing to do.)
3. Praise, praise, praise. Instead of relying on material rewards, praise your child and show affection. Watch as your children’s eyes light up when you give them a hug, praise them with uplifting and kind words, or show excitement over something that they have done.
4. Use a (Family) incentive chart or jar. When your children do what they are asked, finish a chore, or demonstrate good behavior while running errands, let them put a sticker on a chart, or something in a can or jar. Use beans, marbles, pennies, or small rocks. When they have filled the whole jar or covered the whole chart with stickers, the family gets to do something fun together. Your family could go to the movies, a park, museums, or on a hike or bike ride. This will encourage good behavior. More importantly, it will encourage spending time together as a family and strengthening your relationships. Have just one jar or chart that all the kids contribute to. Then it is a group effort.
5. Have kids make their own rewards. Fill a shoe box with plain paper, scissors, crayons, markers, glue, stamps, glitter, anything you have around the house. I like to put plain labels in the box also. When your kids want you to give them a reward, send them to the box to make their own. They can make themselves a certificate or sticker for their accomplishment. It teaches them to be creative, and to reward themselves instead of needing their reward from someone else. Ultimately we want our children to be internally motivated. It takes time, practice and patience to get to this point. To help expedite the process we can….
- Teach kids to encourage themselves. Literally. As funny as this sounds, when your child does something good, remind them to tell themselves "good job." Feel free to say to them "Did you remember to tell yourself you did a good job?" This is a great way to start getting your children to internalize their actions and success. Instead of looking outward for a reward, they look inward and see the good things they have done.
- Always use "You." As parents we are quick to say "I am proud of you." Instead, "You must be proud of yourself."
- When children are small, point out how success makes them feel. "Doesn’t that feel good to be kind to your sister?" Don’t you feel good now that your room is clean?" Once they get a little older, ask them what made them feel good about what they did. "How do you feel now that your room is clean?" "How does it feel to get 100 percent on your spelling test?" "How do you feel when you and your sister play together without fighting?"
- Point out the obvious. When you see your kids do something good, point it out. Don’t reward or judge the action. Just state what they have done. "You got all your spelling words correct." "You did it." "You shared your book with your sister."
- Have your kids write down their successes. When your kids do something good, have them write it down. If they are too young to write, have them draw a picture. (Once the picture is drawn, write a sentence or two on the back describing the picture so you can remember what they drew later.) Save all the pages and make them into a book or put them in a binder. Every month or so, pick a time to sit down and go over all the great things your child has done. Talk about how they feel looking at all the things they have done right. Either way this type of exercise will turn their focus away from material rewards and inward to their own success, building internal motivation.
A good place to start with all of this is by evaluating your children. What means the most to them? To our son nothing means more than when he feels we are listening to him. No interruptions, one-on-one. Our daughter ultimately want us to play with her. Playing house, school, or taking a trip to the park is her greatest motivation. Understanding your children and what is important to them will help you figure out how to intrinsically motivate your children and teach them to feel good about their accomplishments and actions. It will most likely be different for each child. It is a very lofty charge to expect our families to never use rewards. Probably not totally realistic. Instead keep these suggestions and work to use rewards and bribes less. You will be happy with the results.
Are your kids hooked on rewards?
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