Reward Your Child for Good Behavior–Without Bribes
We all want our children to have good behavior, and at some point parents may resort to bribery to elicit those positive and appropriate behaviors. There were times when my children were young that I told them if they could just stop whining in the supermarket line, they could have one of the cookies we were about to buy when we got home. And that did quiet them for a time.
Then there was also the time that I left a full cart of groceries in the store, carried my screaming child out the door, strapped her in her carseat (a feat unto itself), and drove home.
No cookies, or any other food for that matter, made it to our house that day. I had decided that there would be no more bribes. When we got home and she had calmed down, I explained to her why we had to leave the store and come home without buying anything. My child would learn to behave well, and that good behavior would be her own reward. I did not want my children to be among those who don’t behave unless a reward is offered.
I formulated a plan for positive reinforcement, which really did work for my children, and it consists of the following:
Give praise, and lots of it!
Catch them being good! When your child does something well, take the time to stop what you are doing and tell them that you are proud of them! Use lots of kind words and big smiles. Get down on their level so that you can look them in the eye so that they will know that you really mean it!
Be specific when you compliment their behavior. My teenage daughter wanted to use the car the other day. I told her that she could
have the car after she cleaned up her room. She came downstairs about a half hour later and announced that she was finished with her room. You guessed it, she did not quite complete the job. However, she HAD picked up all her clothes and either put them away or in the hamper to be laundered. I looked her straight in the eye and said, “You did a great job picking up your clothes”. And then I just stood there for another minute or two, continuing to look at her but not saying anything. She got it, saying “OK, OK”. Another half hour, and she came down again. This time on inspection, she had really cleaned up the whole room, including some dusting. My reward was not only the clean room, it was when she said, “It really does feel better to live in a neat space”. I couldn’t quite believe it, but then I knew, it really does take years to raise a child well. I’m glad I was persistent!
Give lots of hugs! Hug them when they get good grades, help one of their siblings, or help clean up after dinner. This shows them that good deeds are rewarded with good feelings, not money, food, or toys.
Give privileges. As your children get older, they will want more privileges such as staying out a little later, having a friend over, or being on the phone or computer. Link their behavior with getting more responsibility and freedom.
Spend time with your child. There is nothing more special to them than having parents to themselves. Let them know that if they can keep the bathroom neat for a month or if they make the honor roll, then you will plan an outing with them. Let them choose, within reason, what they would like to do with you. Concentrate on the value of your time together rather than any money spent.
Behavior charts with fun stickers are great reinforcers of positive behavior. Let your child personalize her behavior chart by decorating it. Place a sticker on the chart every time the child performs the desired behavior (like clearing the table after dinner or making his bed). Agree on a small reward for a week’s worth of good behaviors, like playing a game with mom or a bike ride with dad.
Lastly, let your children suffer the consequences of any poor choices or bad behavior. Don’t rescue them. Let them stay after school or get a bad grade. This is hard to do, but it will pay off. Your child will know what it feels like when he or she does makes the wrong
choice. Tell them you are sorry that they made a mistake, but that they have the power to do better.
Remember, when children are rewarded immediately and enthusiastically for exhibiting good behaviors, they will repeat those behaviors. With positive reinforcement, adults can really help build their children’s self-esteem!
Blessings to you,