Star Stickers Chart. Candy. A new toy. It’s common to see parents would give reward for children who behaviour well or accomplish certain task, for example potty training. However, using rewards as a way to motivate kids can kill their inner drive and make it hard for parents to keep up. Rewards also don’t build values. We want kids to value a clean room, get along with their siblings, or be polite. We don’t encourage those values when we only highlight the reward. The value then becomes the new toy, the movie they get to watch, or the money they earn. Research shows that using rewards actually decreases the child’s interest in continuing the positive behavior.
What to do Instead of Offering Reward?
1. Use Encouragement
Encouragement motivates children from the “inside” and helps them feel capable and empowered. It lets kids know they are loved and are good enough, just the way they are. It teaches children that they are separate from their actions and behaviours. It lets them know they are valued without judgement. Children who are encouraged have positive self-regard and a sense of belonging. They learn that mistakes are opportunities for learning and growth.
2. Explain why the action is important
When kids haven’t been cooperative with returning their blocks to their storage box, we can see why the task isn’t exactly up there with the fun they were just having with playing. But instead of rewards, we can try to explain the value of putting the blocks back, and why it’s important. The focus is on a reward — but not an external one. And one that’s related to the task (e.g. putting toys away = not losing toys). We are highlighting the value and the real reason he should do the task.
3. Give praise but don’t over do it
Reserve your praise for when your child deserves it. Doling out “good job”s and rewards can backfire and lose their gusto. Instead, come to expect good behavior. Kids learn they need to brush their teeth even without their parents cheering them on. It’s just what we do. It’s necessary.
4. Find underlying issues
Let’s say a child doesn’t want to go to school in the mornings. Our first thought shouldn’t be to reward her if she puts her shoes on right away. Instead, see why she might be holding back. Could there be changes in the school that may have made her not want to go? Is she feeling unwell? Find underlying issues that may be causing her to resist in the first place.
5. Relax your standards
Kids may not listen because we’ve set our standards too high. One of the quickest ways to make your kids feel bad is to micromanage and criticize what they’ve done. Keep your cool if they don’t hang their clothes as neatly as you do. Instead, appreciate their willingness to help and correct them only if needed.
6. Show your appreciation
Begin a lifelong habit of showing gratitude towards your kids. Thank them when they surprise you with the behavior and values you’d like them to continue. Everyone likes to feel appreciated, especially when they weren’t expecting anything in return.