Your toddler probably already knows the word "No" -- and is starting to gain a sense of independence, which he will test out in different ways. You might find these new developments challenging as a parent -- particularly when you witness his stubborn streak when he simply doesn't always want to behave -- or do the things you want him to do. A reward system can help you both focus on the goals and behavior that you feel are most important.
1. Reward Chart
Make or buy a chart for the behavior you want to reward. Keep it simple and visual so your toddler can easily understand it. For example, if you want your kiddo to go to sleep in her room without a fuss, draw a picture of a bed -- and place a sticker on the chart for each night she achieves this. Show her how her stickers need to fill all the boxes in the row before she gets her reward -- which might be a trip to the town swimming pool, a trip to the toy shop to choose a new toy, or something else she will enjoy.
2. Reward Jar
Set up a jar or small box for your toddler where you can place a reward "token" each time he achieves a goal. You can use straws, cotton balls or any other item you choose as your "tokens," but try to make it something that he can easily see adding up. Choose one or two goals that are easy for him to understand and achieve -- such as using his potty or putting his toys back in the toy box with you when you ask. Make it clear that when the jar is full of tokens, he can use them for an agreed-up reward such as a day trip to the zoo or a new toy car.
3. Sticker on Clothes
Make your toddler feel proud of his achievements by giving him a sticker to put on his clothes each time he does well. At the end of the day, he will be decorated with all the "medals" of his good behavior. Encourage Dad or other family members to notice when he has stickers and to ask him why he received them, as this positive attention should encourage him to try to achieve the goals again. You can give stickers for "playing nicely," "being a good boy while you were talking on the phone" or any other behavior with which you are pleased. This is also a way of reminding you to notice good behavior as well as bad.
4. Timing the Reward
Reward good behavior when it happens. Try to make the reward or treat a natural consequence of the good behavior instead of a bribe. For example, tell your kiddo that if she is a good girl in the grocery store, you will stop at the park on the way home. Or, if she eats up all her vegetables, she will get a cookie for dessert. You might say, "Help me pick up these toys -- and then we can read a nice story together."
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