How to Reward Your Child

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Strip away the layers and really look at your child. What makes them tick? What makes them respond favourably?

Rewards can be offered for good school results, good behaviour or a number of other things. Used effectively, rewards can have a hugely positive impact on your child.

Before exploring the question of using rewards systems, as parents I feel that it is vital to ask why we feel we need to reward in the first place. Secondly, we need to explore various options based on how well we know our child and the effectiveness of said options. Always remember, whether or not to offer rewards is your personal decision.

Very often just being noticed, encouraged, receiving positive words or a simple touch is the only reward a child needs. But how do we get to that stage when we are fighting with our children to get the simplest things done or to get them to understand that they can do it?

Where to start

Firstly, we as parents, need to look at consistency. Secondly, a reward should not become something that children should come to expect or something extra for simply carrying out their daily responsibilities, as this could lead to a false sense of entitlement.  This could also, ultimately teach your child to act out to get what they want and thus spell disaster in the long run.

I agree with 1-on-1 coach, Erin Schlicher, who explains: “Pairing James Lehman’s concept of Strategic Recognition and Affection with tangible rewards (the child’s version of the pay cheque) is one of the most effective ways to reinforce appropriate behaviour. This is the use of sincere praise, along with a genuine pat on the back when your child makes progress on something which is difficult for them. Next, add concrete rewards that are a currency that your child values to complete the picture.”

It is a proven fact that rewards can be used as positive reinforcement for modifying negative behaviour. According to Dr Virginia Shiller, a psychologist and instructor at the Yale Child Study Center and co-author of the book “Rewards for Kids”, rewards can help parents teach their children new habits. Shiller says the key is in how the incentives are given, in setting appropriate, realistic goals and in figuring out a strategy to achieve them.

You know what your child likes, but rewards that children select themselves, are usually the most powerful. So, have your child participate in the creation of the list remembering that a variety of options will help keep your child stay motivated over a longer period of time.

Before creating any type of reward system we need to make sure that our child is able to reach their goal in order to be rewarded. Do they understand what is expected of them? Is it age appropriate? Your child’s behaviour can often be linked to the development stage they are moving through. You may need to lend your skills, which may involve problem-solving conversations, role playing or practicing new skills before leaving your child with any responsibilities. These are the times that our parent “hat” changes to that of coach or teacher. We also have to remember that as parents we too are learning, so don’t be too hard on yourself.

How to use a reward system effectively

  • Use charts (e.g. star or sticker chart) to track progress towards goals and rewards. WorksheetCloud has a reward system built in that allows your child to collect coins and rewards for doing worksheets. You can use WorksheetCloud to help your child to reach their educational goals.
  • Set realistic and specific goals – working on one or two at the same time is better.
  • Be part of your child’s journey to reach that goal – encourage, praise and be helpful.
  • Make rewards fairly immediate – younger children work more effectively towards a short-term goal, while older children can understand working towards long-term rewards.

We need to remember that a reward system is used to ultimately show a child what they are capable of doing. Once the goal has been achieved their sense of responsibility should kick in. The feelings of achievement and satisfaction should eventually outweigh the need for a physical reward.

Examples of possible types of rewards

Rewards should, with the help of your child, be determined ahead of time. They can be small and don’t need to involve money.

  • going to the park
  • listening to an extra bedtime story
  • going for ice cream
  • extra computer or TV time
  • staying up later
  • taking time off from chores
  • choosing a special breakfast, lunch or supper
  • planning a day’s activities

How do you reward your child? Comment below and share you story with us.

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About the Author

Adele Keyser has 27 years experience in teaching pre-primary, foundation phase, intermediate-senior phase and adult education. That's 27 years experience in dealing with children (and parents!). Currently teaching in Cape Town, her major focus is building classroom environments that foster healthy self-esteem and help children realise what they're capable of.

9 Comments

  1. MONICA

    I HAVE AN 11 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER WHO IS DOING GRADE 5 WHOM I STUGGLE TO ASSIST HER WITH HOMEWORKS AND EXAM HINTS DUE TO MY WORK LOAD, ESPECIALY MATHS.

    Reply
    • Kayleen Olivier

      Hi Monica

      Thanks for your message and interest in WorksheetCloud!

      WorksheetCloud is an online resource that gives you access to printable worksheets to help your child revise and practise for class tests and exams. All the worksheets are based on the South African CAPS curriculum which means that they are 100% relevant to the work your child is doing in class.

      We also include detailed memorandums that include the answers and model explanations and working-out for each and every question.

      You can see our full product tour which includes screenshots on this page: https://www.worksheetcloud.com/how-it-works/

      You can also see a full list of subjects and topics we currently cover on this page: https://www.worksheetcloud.com/worksheet-subjects-topics/

      WorksheetCloud 2 pricing is very simple and we offer two different membership plans to suit your needs.

      Online Worksheets + Printable Worksheets Plan:

      This plan gives you access to our brand new online worksheets that your child can complete interactively on their computer, tablet or smartphone. The online worksheets are marked automatically and give your child immediate feedback on their progress, including enrichment and full explanations for every question. This plan also gives you the option to print worksheets to complete with a pen and paper, as well as memorandums.

      Printable Worksheets Only Plan:

      This plan gives you access to printable worksheets that your child can print and complete on paper. You can also print the memorandum so that you can mark your child’s worksheet. The memorandum gives enrichment and full explanations for every question.

      Pricing:

      You can choose to pay on a monthly membership basis, or pay upfront for a 12 month annual membership.

      Online + Printable Worksheet Plan: R 120 once-off, plus R 95 per month
      Online + Printable Worksheet Plan Annual: R 975 once-off
      Printable Worksheet Only Plan: R 120 once-off, plus R 60 per month
      Printable Worksheet Only Plan Annual: R 720 once-off

      The pricing above is per learner.

      On 1 January each year, your child’s account is automatically upgraded to the next grade. So for example, if you sign up a Grade 4 learner now, then on 1 January that learner will be upgraded to Grade 5 at no extra cost.

      If you feel ready to sign up, you can get started here: https://www.worksheetcloud.com/sign-up/

      I hope this helps. If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact us at any time and I’ll be very happy to assist!

      Kayleen 🙂

      Reply
  2. MAM

    Interesting article. The extra iPad time works for our kid. I strongly agree with your notion and believe that these small incentives surely do help. The challenge I find is that sometimes one has to be more creative and cannot always use the same rewards which eventually they see no value in.

    Reply
  3. Mrs Mate

    I am a first time mom, at the age of 40 my son is 6 years old and just started school, he’s in grade 1. I am a career woman and my job demand a lot of my time, come home late and I’m expected to assist with homework. By the the time I arrive home my son is already feeling sleepy and it becomes difficult to do the homework with him. He does attend aftercare but they are not helping him to do the homework well so i have to redo it with him most of the time.This upsets him so much. What can i do so that he can understand that it is required that he does his homework correctly all the time.

    Reply
    • Kayleen Olivier

      Hi Mpho

      Thanks for your message.

      Trying to motivate a young learner can be difficult, especially as they are still learning the routine of school and homework.

      Here are a few of our other blog articles, which you may find helpful, that cover how to make homework less stressful and encourage your child to learn:
      https://www.worksheetcloud.com/blog/back-to-school-5-free-things-to-do-for-success/
      https://www.worksheetcloud.com/blog/7-tips-to-teach-responsibility/
      https://www.worksheetcloud.com/blog/tips-to-make-homework-less-stressful/
      https://www.worksheetcloud.com/blog/are-routines-really-necessary/

      Please let us know if you have any other questions and we’ll be happy to assist.

      Kayleen 🙂

      Reply
    • Mrs S

      Hi Mrs Mate
      I see your email is a few years old and you’re closer to Grade 3. I hope you and your son have both settled. I too am an older Mom, 46, working again with one in Grade 2 and one in Grade 4. It’s difficult to get my Grade 4 to settle in the afternoons besides just handling his homework when I’m not here. The exams and tests have been of a much higher standard in Grade 4. Our way around it since the July exams, is to go to bed earlier (as parents) and get up earlier every morning to work with him. He sees it as special time and gets rewarded with a gentle wake up, and another call five minutes later. Hot Milo ready. Another friend had told me how she wakes her son at 5.30 for homework and I thought she was insane! Well, she’s a Grade 5 mom now and had figured it out earlier. Putting in time for the weekly tests or the projects in the morning, with the standard homework having been done the afternoon while I’m at work, has improved things dramatically for us. And sometimes, on a project, when he says that he’s done enough, and I feel everything needs to be a bit neater, and I’ve asked are you sure a few times, I let it go 😉
      I so you’ve both settled. Let me go and wake mine now to start the day. All the best.

      Reply
  4. Zay

    Hi there,

    I have a 12 year old daughter in grade 5 which i struggle to get her to study for term exams. this has been coming on from grade 3. please advise. how to i deal with her and make her understand its important’s.

    many thanks

    Reply
    • Ross Frank

      Hi Zay! Thanks for your comment! A good way to help understand the importance of studying and being committed to her work, is to draw up a vision board. Ask her what she wants to be when she grows up and then make a timeline from there to the present. This should assist her in understand that she needs to work hard now to achieve what she wants for her future. I hope this helps.

      Ross 🙂

      Reply
  5. ANU

    Good day Mrs Mate-welcome to the life of parenting. I am not going to lie to but this is a something that is going to a part of you for at least 25 years. Each stage of their development is going to come with its own challenges.

    I am a mum of two boys, 15 and 12 years of age. I can understand the challenges you are facing as a working mum especially being a first time mum. I too experienced various challenges raising both my beautiful boys. Looking back I will not exchange those challenges as it was those very challenges that made it possible in directing me in what I love doing today. We cannot escape these challenges as they are an intricate part and parcel of life’s beautiful journey. I can assure as much you are here to teach him, he too is here to teach you.

    I have a great solution to your challenges. Visit Dr Demartini’s website and search for value determination. These are 13 simple questions that you can work with your child and yourself. There is an online chat group ready to assist you. Search related topics on Dr Demartini site on how to awaken your child’s genius. That article will teach you steps on how to understand and relate to your child. It is also important to link your values to your child by asking “How specifically by my child being dedicated to playing video games (example) is help me fulfill what I love doing”. Go on listing the benefits until you have an ‘aha’ moment.

    I would also encourage you understand life as 6 year old. We are here to guide our kids through each of life’s experiences and how to embrace life’s challenges. You maybe feeling overwhelmed at times but always be rest assured that there are always solutions and equal amounts of support to every perceive challenge and there is an important life lesson to embrace for both of you.

    Seeing that you required to work long hours you may want to consider employing an au-pair who is equipped to assist your child with homework and revision which is the stepping stone in laying a strong foundation for future learning. This is an important phase for a learner to establish a routine and healthy homework and study habits.

    To the question that you ask “What can i do so that he can understand that it is required that he does his homework correctly all the time”…

    I am sure you will agree that to have your son do his homework correctly all the time is having an unrealistic expectation on your son or anyone else for that matter. Presently you may perceiving more negatives than positives. Have you ever considered that by him not performing his homework correctly ‘all the time’ may rob you of spending quality time with him, from also further understanding the perceived challenges that he is experiencing. By you as parent will be able to further identify any learning concepts that he maybe experiencing difficulties in. Does it give you an opportunity to address these matters with your child’s teacher? By Identifying these challenges now, will it not eliminate further learning challenges in future and cause less stress and money in hiring tutors and the child having an imbalanced negative outlook on learning and school.

    Like there are different seasons that we go through, which is coupled with its benefits and drawbacks likewise life of a human is also the same. Your child’s values and interests will change along the way. One term he may show interest in soccer, next maybe swimming. He is here to discover his own identity without falling prey to being labeled according to where society wants him to fit in. What you can do is to equip him self mastery skills. The quality of your life is demonstrated by the quality of questions you ask yourself. Understand your child through his values and his priorities. Everyone wants to be loved for they are and not what we project upon them.

    I too fall along the way but I can’t imagine life without communicating in the values of others whilst still honoring mine.

    I trust my solutions find you well.

    Thank you to Worksheet Cloud in providing this platform and opportunity to share our experiences and help each empower our parenting skills.

    Reply

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