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  • Ka’lei Kendal

How to Make Reward Systems Work, for your Child and You- Part 2

In the previous article we looked at some of the reasons why parents use reward systems and why they sometimes fail despite our best intentions. We also introduced the first step in making reward systems work. Following are the next 5 steps needed for achieving success with a reward system for your child and you. See the first and final articles in the series here.

10 Steps to make Reward Systems work - continued

2) Determine Goals: What do you want your child to do? If the goal or desired behavior is larger or more complex break it up into smaller aspects that can be built upon over time. EX: Instead of cleaning their room they could start with making their bed, then make their bed and put dirty clothing in the hamper before moving on to additional tasks such as cleaning dresser tops and vacuuming the floor. Each aspect can be developed in time until the child is, in time, completing the full desired task/behavior.

3) Talk with your child about developed goals: Help your child understand why you feel these goals are important for them and needed. Share with them why meeting the goals benefits their life. This helps create “buy-in” and engagement in the reward plan. EX: They may get increased free time or less grounding by following the reward plan.

4) Have your child help create a reward list: Ask your child what motivates them, even if you think you know already. Encourage them to help create a list of rewards that would be motivating for them to work for. The trick is that the items need to be small enough to be able to be given regularly and they can’t be something the child can get at other times. EX: If the child identifies tablet time as a desired reward but their tablet is stored in their room it may not be the best reward item for them as they can get it anytime they go to their room. If you decide as a team to have this be a reward item a new storage location may need to be developed.

*A note about rewards

Rewards do not have to be large or cost large amounts of money to be successful. Look for simple rewards whenever possible as these are typically easily to implement/provide on a regular basis. A simple reward for a child who may have different culinary preferences then the family could be to allow them to select the dinner menu, for themselves and the family, one night after a few days of success with the desired behavior change. Other simple no cost or low-cost rewards include extra time with a parent to play a game of their choosing, 10 minutes later bedtime, picking a movie for family movie night or maybe an ice cream cone treat while out running errands one day. Don’t be afraid to think out of the box and select less traditional rewards, sometimes they can be the most successful and meaningful.

5) Connect selected reward items with developed goals: Be specific when pairing the rewards and goals. To be the most successful completion of each selected goal, or goal attempt, should be paired with a specific reward item. EX: If the child’s goal is to make their bed and alone time with a parent is a desired reward item they could receive 10-15 minutes of time with their parent at some point in the day, perhaps after school or before bed, each day they make their bed. During this time the child can decide what the pair does, and the parent focuses on following the child’s lead and demonstrating interest in the child’s activities and plans.

6) Determine data tracking method for working on the desired goals: How will you keep track of the attempts and success your child makes with the desired goals? It is important to continue keeping track of both the successes and continued challenges experienced as you and your child work on the desired behavior change.


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