Rewarding children for good behaviour sounds simple. Yet in doing so parents face three problems that are doing more harm than good both physically and psychologically to their children.
- The danger with rewarding kids for a certain behaviour teaches them to expect a reward in exchange for that certain behaviour, which means if the reward is stopped the wished-for behaviour might stop too. Is your child a child or a performing sea lion?
- Giving children physical rewards (what psychologists call extrinsic motivation) for doing something, undermines the development of any intrinsic (internal motivation) reward to do the very same thing. In other words feeling good, proud and happy that you have done something good is a much more powerful reward and long lasting reward than a quick candy bar. We know from research that developing these intrinsic feelings helps children develop in a much more positive way and prepares children for adult life.
- Rewards such as sweets and chocolate in fact produce more harm than good if done on a regular basis. The content of these sweet treats is bad for their health, teeth and mood. Sugar has the same addictive effect as nicotine and cocaine for example. Would you give your child cigarettes, or drugs to reward them for being good?
The good news is that there is one powerful reward that is free, powerful and that your child craves.
Attention. Why do you think games like Fortnite have become so popular with children? Its got something to do with the fact that they are getting attention from their peers and friends.
Descriptive praise and attention are the most effective form of reward a parent can offer a child. Telling them how proud or pleased you are with them and that others in the family will be proud of their behaviour should not be underestimated as a powerful form of reward. Giving your child attention in terms of playing with them is similarly a very powerful reward.
Interesting article on the Telegraph
Some ideas for rewards that will be better for your child and they will enjoy:
- Praise. It costs nothing. Zilch. Praise their effort, not the achievement.
- Play a game of hide and seek for ten minutes
- Hi-5. Acknowledge your child’s achievement with this simple, fun action.
- Read a book. Their favourite. And let them choose the time and place.
- Play a Video clip. One you both like and will watch together. And save it just for these occasions.
- Stay up late. But not too late! 5-15 minutes extra depending on your child’s accomplishment and whether it’s a school night or not.
- Do a puzzle. Together, or as a family. But make sure you finish it!
- What’s for dinner? Let them choose, not just for them but the whole family.
Get your school or nursery to complete a Rewards Review for personalised ways to transform the way we reward our children, so this behaviour is not modelled into adulthood.