Parenting After Separation :
Rewards and Incentives
Parenting After Separation: Rewards & Incentives
Parents quite often say that they’ve tried reward charts and found they don’t work, or they might have worked for a while and then the child gets bored. This is usually because, parents don’t use the charts consistently, or the rewards are not quite right. But reward charts can be really effective for tackling certain behaviour or learning new skills.
We can use incentives and rewards as a way of encouraging our children to behave how we would like, or complete tasks we need them to do. First start by thinking about what you really want them to do or behaviours you would like to see. Such as getting dressed independently, or being gentle with their little brother.
Then work out with your child what rewards they could earn that would motivate them. You could make a chart for them to earn stickers or stars that add up towards a treat. Children often ask for something that is very expensive.
We can’t afford to buy them an X box or an iPhone every time they do something right. So we talk about low cost or no cost incentive rewards. Things like
- • going to the park.
- • art and crafts
- • reading a story
- • a friend round for tea
- • more time with you
- • choosing dinner
- • bake a cake with you
With young children you need to link the reward immediately to the specific behaviour. Set them small tasks, that they can easily achieve. And reward them fast. Don’t set them up to fail by having too high an expectation, like they are going to behave well all week!
For example if you were having trouble with getting them to sit properly at the meal table you could say ‘if you stay on your chair until you have finished your food, then you can have a reward’.
If I say to a child, don’t be unkind to your brother for a whole week, this may be impossible!. I know we want to rule out that behavior. Don’t get me wrong, we’ll work on that. But every time you see her playing gently with her brother, reward her for that, saying ‘well done for playing gently with Tim, you can have 5 mins extra special time with me’.
Sometimes parents remove or cross out the stickers or stars which the child has earned because they have done something wrong. This is unfair as the child has earned those stars for good behaviour, if you take them away it demotivates them to try again, and they learn a powerful lesson that good behaviour is never good enough. They shouldn’t lose what they already have, even if they don’t earn any more that day! If you mess up at work, you usually don’t lose your pay cheque, but you may not earn a bonus! And children’s rewards need to work the same way.
Never promise anything that you may not be able to deliver or they will lose faith in you. Your word is your bond. Be consistent. Be predictable. Be there. One of the things children value most is your time with them. So if you spend some 1;1 special time with them, that’s the best reward .
As part of this week’s lesson we have a simple reward chart for you to download and use.
It has all the days of the week and you can have an individual one for each child.
Work out the top jobs or behaviour you want to see, For instance, cleaning their teeth, sitting at the table, or sharing their lego. Don’t set too many; keep it simple, keep it straightforward. And make sure the rewards are instantly available when they get it right. Then add the stickers or stars when they do it, and don’t forget a big ‘well done’ and a high 5!
Now that we’ve covered special time, child-led play, specific praise, clear instructions and rewards and incentives, next week we’ll go on to cover setting boundaries. And consequences for when those boundaries are broken.