Rewarding Kids – What Rewards Are Appropriate?

To an adult, achieving a goal is often its own reward. With children this is not always the case. Rewarding children for doing good things or reaching a goal is a great way to motivate them, and it does not have to be expensive. The best rewards are usually free...

A reward can be as simple as a hug from daddyChildhood is a great time to teach our children goal setting.  If we can get the idea in our kids’ heads while they are still young, it could stay with them into adulthood.  But if we are to be successful in teaching our children the value of goals, we must make sure that they find them worthwhile.

To an adult, achieving a goal is often its own reward.  In some cases this is true for kids as well, as with a goal to save up enough money to buy a skateboard.  But with other goals, such as those pertaining to education, they may need just a little more reinforcement.

What Kinds of Rewards Are Appropriate?

There are many different ways we can reward our kids for achieving goals.  Some are more expensive than others, but it is completely possible to reward a child for reaching a goal for free.  Here are some ideas I use with my own kids:

  • Kids often have a hard time realizing that achieving a goal is a reward in itself, especially when the goal isn’t something tangible.  To help them with this concept, we can have them verbalize why the goal is important to them when they set it.  Writing the reasons down is even better.  When the time comes to congratulate your child for a job well done, you can remind him why it was important to him in the first place.
  • Another simple and inexpensive way to reward an intangible goal is with a certificate.  These can be made on your computer with a word processing or greeting card program.  You could even frame it to make it extra special.
  • Celebrating when a goal is reached is a fun way to provide reinforcement.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate.  A simple family dinner with the child’s favorite main course or dessert, or dinner out at his favorite restaurant, will do.
  • A day off from regular chores is a nice reward that doesn’t cost a dime.  For added effect, you could make a coupon for the day off that he can redeem whenever he wants.
  • For important or difficult goals such as raising bad grades, a more tangible reward might be in order.  That new pair of shoes your child has wanted for months or the newest CD from his favorite artist are possibilities.
  • For young children it sometimes helps to provide visual reinforcement. We have a reward chain which is as simple as colored paper clips that we hang from our sons door. When he does something good he gets his choice of a colored paper clip, and the flip side is when he is not listening or does something he should’nt, we take one away. After so many paper clips he can turn them in for something special, and then we start over again. One key that I have found helpful is rewarding kids when they don’t think you are watching, catch them in the act of doing something nice and make sure you reward or praise your kids for it.

Kids sometimes need a little something extra to motivate them to achieve their goals.  But acknowledgement is the most important thing.  Although you might be proud enough to do it, there is no need to go buy up the entire mall to reward your child for a job well done.  A small reward will let your child know that you are pleased while reinforcing the idea that a goal achieved is a reward all by itself. Sometimes the best reward is just to have mom or dad notice, or as simple as a hug…


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