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Need a good way to encourage your kids to do something? Implement an incentive program. People, including kids, are more likely to do things when there’s a reward involved.
It’s human nature 101.
Despite what a few oddball studies might suggest, the research is overwhelmingly clear that reward systems are good for kids, as long as they’re done the right way.
They tend to be a lot more successful when consistency is involved — rewards must be given multiple times for the same behavior, not just once — and when given along with vocal praise.
Here are some smart incentive ideas that will help you teach your kids positive, healthy habits.
Use a Points Spreadsheet
The points spreadsheet system is a great way to get your kids to consistently do good things throughout the day without creating different incentives for different tasks.
For example, kids can earn points for brushing their teeth (side note: an interactive toothbrush for kids can help immensely with brushing) and sharing with a sibling.
Points can be exchanged for money (say, a cent for each point), screen time, or maybe time at the playground.
Each activity should hold a different point value, and the better the behavior, the more points it should be worth.
Tip: Download your preferred spreadsheet app on your phone so that you can keep track of points all the time.
Make a Chore Sticker Chart
The chore chart system is the original parenting incentive.
For kids of a certain age, a sticker of their favorite character or animal is even more valuable than cold, hard cash.
Encourage them to earn stickers with a chore chart and post it on the fridge or somewhere where everyone can see it so they can reflect on all the good work they have done.
One fun hack we like to use with this method is to have two sheets of the same stickers — one for the chart and one for your kid.
Place one sticker on the chore chart to mark a good behavior and then give your child the matching sticker from the other sheet for them to keep.
Create a Rewards Coupon Book
Rewards coupons are amazing for kids because they help forge positive habits and ideas and emphasize the importance of doing good for gratification later.
It’s also a great option because it allows you to reward your children with various incentives.
For example, you can make DIY rewards coupons for kids to cash in for things like:
- Stay up an extra 30 minutes past bedtime
- Have a friend over for a sleepover on the weekend
- Spend an afternoon baking cookies
- Spend an afternoon at grandma’s house
- Enjoy a hot chocolate or special drink.
- Stop for ice cream after a trip to the park.
- Spend an afternoon at the playground
- Take a trip to the aquarium or zoo.
- Get an extra half hour of screen time.
- Have a backyard campout
- Sleep in a fort in the living room
Another awesome thing about an incentive coupon system is that you can use it to reward plenty of different behaviors.
For example, if bedtime goes off without a hitch and you and your little ones are all ready for bed on time (parenting hack: you can use a hands-free toothbrush to get yourself ready for bed while you get your kids ready for bed), reward them by letting them choose a coupon of their choice.
These coupons can be used as rewards for almost anything.
Give an Activity Reward
Remind kids that the activities they do and the places they go should not be taken for granted.
Activity rewards are perfect for when you want to encourage good behavior leading up to a certain event or activity.
For example, require that your child does a certain amount of chores or behaves for a certain amount of time before he or she can go to the playground or water park.
The key here is sticking to your plan. As tempting as it may be, don’t go forward with your plans if your child doesn’t do what they are supposed to.
Hold an Awards Ceremony
This one is fantastic because it combines an actual physical reward with the reward of recognition and praise.
It’s also a generally fun and engaging activity to keep kids entertained for an hour.
Each month, hold a Family Awards Ceremony to designate special rewards for those who showed outstanding behavior throughout the month.
For example, you can give awards for Best Listener, Best Napper, Best Cleaner, Best Helper, etc. Make it extra-fun by printing out certificates and handing out ribbons or medals.
Let Them Throw a Party
Small, routine rewards like points or stickers work really well for toddlers and little kids, but big kids need a bit more to get motivated.
One of the best ways to keep them engaged is to offer the reward of a special party for the family or a few friends.
Whether that be a casual pizza party at home on a Friday night or a special birthday party at the trampoline park or pool doesn’t matter, as long as it reflects the weight of the good deed.
Don’t Forget the Praise
We all know that treats and toys are the ultimate rewards, but the truth is that you really won’t get anywhere unless these things come with positive praise and affirmation.
The idea is not for your kids to associate good deeds with material rewards, but to associate good deeds with the good feelings that come with them.
This will help ensure that they carry positive and healthy habits with them for the rest of their lives. You can do it!
Krystle Cook – the creator of Home Jobs by MOM – put her psychology degree on a shelf and dived into a pile of diapers and dishes instead. She is a wife and mother to two rambunctious boys, sweating it out in her Texas hometown. She loves cooking, DIY home projects, and family fun activities.