To reward or not to reward?

For many years, “reward charts” were very common among parents. It was a way to motivate children to behave in certain ways, but the difficulties with this approach are:

  1. We are not looking at or acknowledging what our child is feeling, what their struggles are and understanding what is behind certain behaviours.
  2. Reward charts can become a “bargaining chip”. Your child may start saying, “I will do this if I get this…”
  3. Whilst they can work in the short term, they are a quick fix: they don’t uncover what is actually going on.
  4. We can assume that a child can behave differently but is choosing not to. This is generally not the case. There may be a number of reasons your child is not responding how you want them to. One reason is that they don’t yet have the skills and understanding needed to meet the expectations you are setting. For example, they are happy playing but then have a tantrum when you are getting ready to go out. By viewing this behaviour from your child’s point of view, you can better connect with them and show empathy with them. You can then work through how you can support them by listening, comforting and then looking at how to manage the situation in a calm, responsive and respectful way.
  5. When your child behaves a certain way that is deemed as inappropriate or challenging, what they need is for you to provide a feeling of safety and security. Children who are ‘misbehaving’ are often just running on emotions. They need to know you are their ‘safe place’ and that, no matter what, you are there to comfort them and love them.
  6. In some cases, you can offer a reward for a certain behaviour or action but your child is not developmentally able to achieve this. This then becomes almost a “punishment” for your child. They become more stressed and anxious and can feel that they have failed. No child should feel that they have failed: it will impact on their self esteem, self confidence and self worth. It can see them feeling frustrated and overwhelmed and that they are not good enough.

For my blog next week, I will be continuing along this theme to help you to look at alternatives to reward systems.