How to Set Up an Effective Reward System for Your Kids | Parenting Guide

reward system for kids

While dealing with your child’s misbehavior, rewarding might be the last thing you have in mind. However, using reward systems can be one of the best ways to change misbehaviors. And, the best news is, reward systems usually work faster and it’s suitable for children of all ages. So, whether your preschooler has gotten into the habit of bullying, or your teenager keeps “forgetting” to do chores, a simple reward system can help your kid become more responsible for their behaviors. Read on to know how to set up a reward system for your kids.

Reward Systems for Toddlers and Preschoolers

reward system for kids

Reward systems rely on positive reinforcement to encourage your kid’s good behaviors. For little kids, you should consider using a sticker chart because toddlers and preschoolers love stickers. If they take part in coloring or designing the chart, they will be more invested in earning stickers. Therefore, allow your child to decorate a piece of paper and use that as your chart. But, if they don’t want to, you can find some reward charts online or make your own DIY version. On top of that, you should let your toddler choose the stickers themselves. Just make sure you don’t hand over any stickers until your kid actually earns them. 

The instructions are simple. Put 1 sticker on the chart each time your child accomplishes their goal. Some parents also give out more rewards for certain milestones. For example, your kid can get 1 sticker each time they dress themselves. Also, note that your chart can take many forms like dimes in a jar, magnets on the fridge or anything that’ll motivate your child to behave well. Remember to keep the chart prominently displayed. Preschoolers are often very proud of their accomplishments and want to ensure everyone is aware that they have earned stickers.

Reward right away

In order to eliminate confusion, stickers should be given immediately after the desired behavior occurs. Otherwise, your kid might forget what they’re being rewarded for.

Track only One Behavior

When you first start a reward system, only track 1 behavior at a time. For example, your child can get stickers for using the toilet probably, getting dressed or saying “thank you”. Once a specific behavior is no longer a problem, you can target another. Always make sure your kid’s goals are realistic and age-appropriate.

Give Plenty of Praise

Toddlers and preschoolers’ nature is pleasing their parents. Give your child lots of praise when they accomplish a goal. So, they will be encouraged to keep up the good work. Also, remind them about the reward chart often.

Use Simple Words

With young kids, you need to speak with simple terms. So, instead of rewarding your child for “showing gratitude for others”, you’re rewarding them for saying “please” and “thank you”.

Don’t Bribe

Even if you’re desperate to get your toddler to behave in public, you shouldn’t use a reward system as a bribe. Your child might start acting out on purpose, knowing that a reward awaits when they stop. 

Reward Systems for School-Aged Kids

reward system for kids

For older kids, a reward system usually deals with points instead of stickers. But tracking points alone won’t motivate them to change their behavior very well. So parents need to encourage them with larger incentives. For example, your kid can trade in 50 points for a trip to the playground, a later bedtime, an extra half hour of video games.

Track multiple Behaviors

As your kids grow, you can implement more tasks in the reward chart. Your child might earn points for making their bed, helping with laundry, or being nice to siblings.

Consider Removing Points

As parents, we love our kids and it’s just too hard to deal with their sad face. However, you should decide on the dynamics of their chart and have some options to remove points for bad behaviors. If it happens, clearly explain the reasoning to your child, so they don’t feel unfair and lose interest in scoring.

Add Time

If your kid has a knack for procrastination, adding a time sensitivity element to the reward system might do the trick! Maybe you can tell your kid to make their bed before 10 a.m or they need to complete their chores before dinner to receive points.

Don’t Stray from the System

Reward charts clearly state what is expected of your child, but they only work as long as you keep it suitable. Even a simple task like cleaning their bed can require a lot of energy, effort, and time. Or, if your kid is just too tired then they can skip the tasks of that day.

Your kid can handle more and more complex tasks when they’re older. So, you can tackle bigger goals or even many at a time. Remember to explain to your child every time you change it. Make sure they know it’s a positive strategy, rather than a punishment. Also, allow your child an opportunity to ask questions and become involved in suggesting the rewards they want. If you have your own reward system, please share it with us in the comments!