The power of positive reinforcement is often touted by child development experts as an ideal parenting method, with a group of Dutch neuroscientists even showing an increased learning response in pre-adolescent children to positive over negative stimuli. Jay Belsky, Director of the Institute for the Study of Children, explains that for young children, positive reinforcement is simply easier to process. Many parents, however, still question how to best reward children for good behavior.
1. Make a Chart
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting your reward system with a chart. Enlist the help of your child to decorate a calendar you each will use to monitor the rules and boundaries that are followed. Create a list of desired actions, and how often they should occur, as well as a means for notating when your child complies. Stickers can be used to tally a point system at the end of each day for the rules and boundaries your child sticks to. Determine together how many points should be required for specific rewards, allowing your child to build up a bank of points to use how he sees fit. In order to get the most benefit from the chart, keep it somewhere your child can see it on a regular basis.
2. Material Rewards
Depending on your family’s financial situation, you may want to select a few small material rewards your child can work towards earning. Things like a new book or set of crayons can be great motivators for young children. As your child gets older, you can add items that are geared towards his interests -- such as renting a video game or earning a new set of baseball cards. Remember to keep the points required for each reward in line with how special the reward actually is.
3. Household Rewards
The Children’s Trust, a Florida based group committed to advocating for the success of children, suggests several rewards which can be utilized around the house. Possibilities include giving your child control of the remote one night or allowing him to choose what dinner should consist of on another. Extra telephone time or the privilege to organize a sleepover are also great options to present to your child. For some kids, being able to choose a movie to rent or getting to stay up a little late over the weekend can also be exciting.
4. Activity Rewards
Other potential rewards to include on your chart might involve family outings. Things like taking a picnic together to the park or purchasing tickets for a sporting event might excite your child. Even presenting him with the opportunity to go someplace alone with you while his siblings remain behind could convince him to remain on track. Keep in mind special activities that come into town only a few times a year, such as the circus or traveling museum exhibits, as well.