21 November 2023 What Parents Need to Know About Rewarding Children

Should parents reward their children for helping with house chores? What about rewarding them after they have completed their homework and assigned tasks on time? 

You probably thought about this before but perhaps have not arrived at a conclusion. 
If you hope that your kids reach their behavioural milestones, you can attempt a tactic that many parents nowadays swear by: The Reward Systems. The idea of reward systems can be a productive disciplinary way of educating children. 

However on the other side of the argument, parents have always been told that rewarding their children will destroy their inherent motivation as they may become increasingly materialistic. 

Well, do you think this is true? 

What you need to know about rewarding your children?

Difference between a reward and a bribe
Their differences are subtle, which is why many parents fail to reward their children correctly, which often results in further behavioural problems down the road. 

A reward is given after children show good behaviour. “If you complete the assigned tasks well today, I will give you a treat,” is a reward. 

A bribe, in contrast, is when parents offer their misbehaving children a favor or treat as an exchange for their promise of being well-behaved. “I will buy you chocolate candy if you stop crying and yelling,” is a bribe. 

Due to this, parents should understand that rewards are usually pre-planned and should target specific behaviour. It’s important for parents to set certain rules about rewards. In any case, do not allow your children to receive a reward when they blackmail you by saying, “I won’t clean up the room unless you buy me a chocolate bar.”. 

Rewards can be a healthy and positive way to reinforce good behaviour for kids if parents manage it well. Children may learn to behave well or do the right things for which they receive positive feedback and avoid negative behaviours that gain no rewards.

On the other hand, bribes educate children to use their behaviour as a method to manipulate others. Although bribes can be tempting at times as it motivates kids to change their behaviour immediately, it does not educate proper skills over the long haul. 

Similarly in reality, you won’t be receiving your paycheck until you have done the assigned task. Likewise, don’t give in to the easy alternative to nurture your children. 

Reward systems do not spoil kids
Contrary to the many skeptics out there, rewarding your children sparingly does not spoil kids. 

It helps children develop small routines and ritual practices important to everyday life. Positive results and comments motivate people regardless of age. Most working adults have the motivation to go to work as they will eventually receive their reward in the form of a paycheck. This applies the same to children as they will come to understand that they can gain their  reward or more privileges from being well-behaved. 

Linking privileges to positive behaviour educate children to earn things prior to reward. In that sense, reward systems can prevent children from becoming spoiled because they will have to learn the value and importance of things in life in order to gain rewards. 

Parents do not have to give rewards that require any costs
There are many rewards that do not cost money. Children do not have to gain lavish rewards everyday. In fact, younger kids can earn from a simple sticker chart that allows them to accumulate for a larger reward. Allowing them to choose a special or favourite meal, earn a later bedtime for extra gaming or activity time, or pick a game that inspires them to play can be the reward option. 

Be creative with your rewards and you won’t have to spend money for the rewards. Do ask your kids for their input on what sort of rewards they would like to earn too. 

Rewarding creates a positive environment
Positive parent-child relationships at home can influence children's behaviour. It also creates an enjoyable and pleasant environment for both parents and children. 

A home filled with positive education and reinforcement for good behaviour, rather than one that is directed by constant punishing for bad behaviour, is a place that provides them with an emotionally positive and secure environment. This is a crucial tool in parenting as it gives happiness and motivations to children in their ongoing learning. 

What you can do to reward your children

Get the timing right
There is evidence showing that the value of rewards will be lost if parents reward their children with a delay. In other words, in order for rewards to work successfully for children, it has to be fresh in their mind when parents request them to complete tasks or adjust their behaviour. Or else, they might start to misbehave when they cannot receive the promised rewards or begin to think that they cannot do things correctly.  

Giving the right and meaningful rewards
A reward does not have to be luxurious and complicated but it should meet some basic criteria. Rewards for kids should be inexpensive or of no cost.  The rewards should also be things that your children care about to work effectively. You must also be willing to dole it out regularly. 

Remember not to make a promise you cannot keep. Be sure to be specific about the goals that you want your children to achieve so that they will know exactly what they need to do to get the reward. They need not be confusing, so make sure to communicate concisely and clearly to them. 

For younger kids, goals should be easy enough for them to achieve without much effort in order to let them experience a taste of success. As the practice becomes a routine that is more normalized, you may extend the goals and tasks to make it more challenging but always take note that the reward system should not be too complicated. Make sure to focus on a selected few of your children’s behaviours and not a dozen at a time. 

Give plenty of encouragement and praise to your children
You can encourage your children before they do something. For instance, “The test is over, you don’t have to worry much about it as you have studied hard. No matter how the results turn out, you have done your best”. Some kids who are less confident than others need such encouragement compared to others. When you focus your praise on effort, they are more likely to see trying hard as a positive thing in itself and be more optimistic when challenges are in place. At the same time, you are showing them how to react, think and talk positively.

With all these said, do not overuse rewards. Rewards are undeniably helpful tools to communicate and teach good behaviours among children, but parents need to readjust the rewards that they are giving so that children do not take it for granted. 

Always ask yourself whether the rewards you gave works to encourage your children’s behaviour that you want or not. Take note to also adjust the reward systems according to your children’s age. As they grow older into their adolescent years, they should have learnt that good behaviour is a reward in and of itself, as opposed to still having an expectation to be rewarded by the people around them. 

A reminder to all the parents here: Do keep the reward systems as simple as possible so that both parents and children are clear about how it works. 

As a final note to our fellow parents readers, make sure to be mindful of your long term behavioural goals for your children as you contemplate on the right rewards system to adopt for your children. Remember that your parenting goals must not be limited to controlling the outcome of a specific event only, but your responsibility is for the long-term healthy upbringing of your children. So, use rewards wisely. 

Morin, A. (January 2020). Common concerns about giving kids rewards. Verywell Family. Retrieved from https://www.verywellfamily.com/concerns-about-giving-kids-rewards-1094886

‘Praise, encouragement and rewards’ (August 2020). Raising Children Network. Retrieved from https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/connecting-communicating/connecting/praise

EdNavigator. (n.d.). What parents need to know about rewarding hard work and good behavior. Retrieved from https://www.ednavigator.com/resources/what-parents-need-to-know-about-rewarding-hard-work-and-good-behavior