Hold up…we are not advocating a sugar first nutritional food pyramid. We are talking about rewards.
Rewards help motivate and inspire kids and to be honest – adults too. Let’s make a clear distinction – Rewards are NOT bribes. Bribes are usually spontaneous, where rewards are planned. I am sure you can think of a time or two when the usually off-limits cellphone or lollipop comes out of the purse just to get your little one to quit doing ____ (fill in the blank) in the middle of the store. Bribes are not premeditated. You usually have no intentions of offering until you are in the heat of the moment.
Rewards, on the other hand, can provide positive reinforcements for good behavior while helping encourage your child to complete a difficult task. Rewards are recognition of a job well done.
If you’ve ever tried to get a 5 year old to sit long enough to complete a worksheet of math or write down a list of sight words, you’ll appreciate that it is no easy task to incentivize your little one to stay focused. Yet, you know that one way or another it has to be done.
As tempting as it may be, don’t reward your child with sweets. There are alternatives that can be a lot more fun and ‘rewarding’ for both you and your child, which doesn’t require you to have a bag of Scooby Snacks around the house.
A couple rules when starting out with rewards…
Ensure your child can achieve them easily before you consider moving the goalposts out. This is especially important with young kids.
Most importantly, a reward must be of value. There is no point in offering a reward your child isn’t interested in achieving.
HINT: It’s all about allowing your child to be involved in the process.
We battled tested through tears, glossed over eyes, and full-on meltdowns to present you with our solution to rewarding your little learning machine.
In our attempt to quell our children’s lack of interest in adding and subtracting, we purchased a ‘Lustigt’ prize wheel from IKEA. Each of our children was then tasked with coming up with 24 rewards they wanted. Initially, it started out with candy, cupcakes, and ice cream, but we asked them to get more creative. Think of not just things, but stuff you want to do?
Our children got busy to the task and came up with some great ones such as:
Pillow fight, Art time with parent of choice, Chose a family game, Video game with parent of choice, 30 minutes extra computer time, Playtime at the park – no excuses, and bike ride to the beach, as some examples.
Each child had established the list that they were willing to win, some of them were more desired than others, but each was one that they thought of for themselves. We then labeled on a sheet of paper starting with the most desired prize as #1 and then filled out the rest through to #24.
Everyday, after they have either finished homework or completed some other chore we had assigned, they are able to spin the wheel to find out what they won! It’s a suspenseful reward system, that is up to chance, but they know whatever it lands on it’s something they want.
My husband came up with the idea of adding each daily number up cumulatively. Those numbers add up to a much bigger number and have larger rewards attached to them. They can then decide to use up their accumulated points to ‘purchase’ that prize or opt to ‘save’ them and go for the next larger prize.
This little extra bonus game’s incentive is to want to get the higher numbers vs the lower ones so that you can grow your total faster. We even added a few bonus points to the initial 24 like; Add 10 extra points or bonus 50 points.
Example for the bonus rewards; we’ve set the first ‘big’ number to 750 points. This gets my son a large Lego set he’s been wanting and my daughter one of those large L.O.L Surprise Blind Boxes. They can chose to get it as soon as they hit or surpass that magic number OR they can hold out for the next number, which is 1,250. That number gets them either a day at Disneyland or Legoland.
You obviously can set the rewards at whatever you feel comfortable rewarding, but leave the big-ticket items to the bonus game. You would be surprised how often a child can ‘will the wheel’ to land on the number they want! Be prepared!
The winning combination
While rewards should never be given out haphazardly, it shouldn’t be mission impossible to achieve them either. As Goldilocks would say, “It has to be just right!”
A good measure to keep in mind is that the reward should reflect the effort your child puts into achieving it. The idea is to reward the effort, not the achievement itself. You don’t need perfection, but there should be progress.
There is a lot of banter on the Internet about the pros and cons on rewarding a child for performing tasks or schoolwork. Ultimately, you will have to decide how your family handles and evaluates what tasks are rewarded, but hopefully this has provided you with a creative suggestion you can make your own!
Then, you can all – just enjoy desserts!