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Tangible Children Reward Program Helps to Reinforce Good Positive Behavior in Children
Tangible children’s rewards, i.e. something concrete such as a special treat, extra privileges, favorite stickers or even money, are one of the important supports for encouraging positive behavior in children. However, parents must understand that these children’s rewards should be used less often than parental attention, praise and encouragement. Parents can use tangible rewards to encourage children to complete a difficult task such as toilet training, playing together with siblings, or learning how to dress.
It is important to continue to provide social rewards such as praise and encouragement when using tangible rewards. The impact of using both types of child rewards is much greater. Social rewards are good for reinforcing the effort put into mastering a new skill or behavior, while tangible rewards are great for reinforcing a specific goal.
Two ways to use a tangible reward for children
1. As a surprise reward. Whenever you notice your child behaving in a desired way, such as sharing or playing quietly without arguing, you could say, “Sam, you did so well sharing your toys with your little sister, let’s go get a special treat.” This works especially well when the child has already been performing the appropriate behavior on a regular basis, and you want to reinforce and increase the frequency with which it occurs.
2. Plan ahead. Tell your child which desired behavior will result in a reward. This is especially useful when you want to increase a rare behavior.
Here’s a concrete example:
Carol was concerned that eight-year-old Susan and four-year-old Peter often fought over toys. Carol wanted to reduce their arguments and increase their sharing. She wrote a plan using a tangible reward with two children. The idea is to motivate them to share and play quietly through rewards. Carol then told the kids that every time they played for 30 minutes without fighting, they would all earn a sticker; and every time they share their toys, they’ll also earn a sticker. She also told the children that each day they could turn the stickers they earned into something they wanted. She then created a ‘reward menu’ with the children and came up with a list of treats that was discussed and agreed upon. The number of stickers needed for each item on the list is also determined. The ‘sticker chart’ is then placed where both children can easily see it, so they can stick their sticker on the chart each time they deserve it.
It is better to create a menu to reward children with long small, inexpensive items as well as larger items. A coloring book can be worth 5 stickers, and a trip to the cinema can be worth 30 stickers. Allow the children to change the list as they come up with new suggestions.
Carol chose 30 minutes as the time period, but if she noticed that the children could not last 30 minutes of playing together without arguing, she would shorten the time to, for example, 15 minutes. On the other hand, if the kids always earned a sticker in 30 minutes, she could then extend the time to 45 minutes. The idea is to make the steps small, achievable, but not too easy.
Examples of material rewards for children
1. Cheap items
Crayons and paper, pencils, colored pencils, coloring books, paints, money, a new toy with a certain price limit, a choice of favorite cereal, watching a children’s DVD, a special snack, a favorite drink, etc.
2. Special privileges at home
Choose a dessert for a family dinner, driving in the front seat of the car, bringing friends to the game, choosing a DVD, etc.
3. Special outdoor activities
Going to a baseball game, riding a bike on the playground, staying with grandparents, going to the zoo, going to the movies, going to the park, having a picnic, etc.
4. Special time with parents
Making cookies with a parent, an extra bedtime story, 15 minutes of extra playtime with a parent, playing a game with a parent, going shopping with parents, etc.
In conclusion, tangible reward programs can cultivate positive behavior in children only if:
1. choose effective rewards or rewards that children really want
2. make the program fun and simple
3. Follow the charts carefully and consistently
4. be persistent and follow through on your promise with rewards
5. Revise the program from time to time as behavior changes
6. set consistent limits on the behavior that will receive the reward
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