There is a great deal of discussion about discouraging and disciplining “bad” behaviors but what are some positive steps that we can take as parents to reward our children for “good” behavior?
Over the years I have found that not all methods for encouraging positive behaviors are effective on every child. After all my oldest is 22 and my youngest is 3, not only have times changed but each one of my children as well as those children in my classrooms all respond differently to different methods so it’s a good idea to have several ideas to work with.
Beat the Clock
There are several different variations on “beating the clock” to reward your child’s behavior. You can add time to television watching, video or computer game playing or extend a bedtime and provide for extra activities to do with your child during those extra moments. One suggestion for younger children is to get a Melissa and Doug clock that can help your child learn shapes, numbers, colors and telling time.
In order to use it to reward behavior remove the numbers from the clock and every time your child does something spectacular, like clearing the dinner dishes and helping to wash them or cleaning his/her room on their own reward them with 5 minutes of time to do what they want. Insert the 5 minute pieces into the clock so both you and your child can monitor the free time that they have earned. You can create the cap on your own from 15 minutes to one hour based on your child’s behaviors as well as age, after all a 6 year old doesn’t really need an extra hour of television time.
Cash in those Chips
So many parents I spoke to use the poker chip system to reward positive behaviors. There are several different ways of using poker chips as an incentive. You can try any one of these to reinforce the behaviors your house needs a little incentive to perform:
Start out with every member of the family with the same number of poker chips in a bowl. Whenever someone in the family is unkind, discourteous or exhibits a behavior you are trying to eliminate they lose a chip. This goes for everyone in the household, so if mom slips up and says a naughty word she can lose a chip too! Whoever has the most chips at the end of the week gets to choose a special activity for the whole family to participate in.
Other parents I have spoken to use the poker chips as an “allowance” system. Being kind to a sibling is one color of chip, while doing extra chores or getting good grades are another. This way you can tell what sort of behaviors could use a little extra effort and which ones everyone is working very hard on. Whoever has the most chips at the end of the week gets a prize or a special treat.
For older children parents can designate a dollar amount for each chip, for example a red chip could be worth $1.00. At the end of the week you add up the chips, cash them in and each child gets their allowance based on their poker chips.
Show you Love what your child is doing:
Create heart chart with a dry erase board and markers or with a large size poster board and stickers. Whenever your child exhibits a behavior that you “love;” whether it is using her manners or not fighting with a sibling place a heart on the chart using a sticker or marker. Establish a “cap” to the number of hearts earned, for example 14, and reward your child with a special prize like lipsticks, nail polish, hair bows, even Silly Bandz. For boys try matchbox cars, tattoos, army men or zoo animals. The goal of this chart is to celebrate what children are doing right.
What are some inexpensive rewards and treats you can have around the house for immediate reinforcement? Try using books, stickers, snacks, beauty supplies (like nail polish, nail art or make up), or matchbox cars for instant gratification and for those end of the week cash ins. Stop by the $1.00 store and pick up puzzles, coloring books and any other items that catch your eye. Stores like Michaels and Hobby Lobby offer many $1.00 priced rewards and craft supplies. Rewards that don’t cost anything can include family sundae night, choosing a movie to watch, family game night or providing your child with extra time to enjoy one of their favorite activities.
Do you need help getting started? The first thing to do is decide on the behaviors you want to work on. These websites offer premade charts for your use; that are free and printable; Chart Jungle and DLTK.com.These sites also offer printable “tokens” and “bucks” to use with charting your child’s behavior.
You can also create one on your own using an Excel spreadsheet or even a large page daily calendar. Do you have a child that can’t read yet? Teach them positive behaviors and help their reading skills by using a picture of the chore or behavior you want and place the word underneath it in the chart.
Tips for making your incentives work:
Be sure to go over the chart with your child so they understand your expectations and the rewards system.
Be consistent in using your reward system.
Place the chart somewhere obvious, not only so that it is noticed and used but to continually reinforce the behaviors you want your family to exhibit.
Review the chart at the end of the day. Be sure to praise progress from day to day.
Change it up – prevent boredom. Once you have specific behaviors enacted then add more challenges to keep everyone enthusiastic about their progress.
Money saving incentive tips:
Where can you get the rewards and incentives mentioned? Try thrift stores, consignment stores, dollar stores and even local public libraries, which often have book sales.
Consider laminating your chart and using an erasable marker so that you can use the chart over and over again.
Save yourself the printer ink and have your child color in the chart pictures instead of printing in color. This also provides them with opportunities to contribute and ownership of their behavior and charting.
In order to incentives to be effective at rewarding behaviors remember that changes are not going to occur overnight and it may take up to 6 weeks to begin to make effective changes in behavior. Some say that “good behavior is its own reward,” however appreciation for your child’s efforts can’t hurt. Just as you like to get a raise at work or find a positive comment on your desk from a supervisor, children want and need your approval.
Interview with moms