Most parents, at one point in time, offer a little treat for motivation. When discussing if this is the right thing to do, there are many different philosophies on the benefits of “reward” programs for child motivation. Whether or not to offer rewards is a personal decision. According to Dr. Virginia Shiller, a psychologist and instructor at the Yale Child Study Center and coauthor of the book Rewards for Kids, rewards can help parents teach their children new habits. A few of the guidelines Shiller recommends when thinking through your incentives program are:
Don’t start till age 3 or 4.
Kids can begin to understand the concept of a reward till around age three. Developmental age is just as important as chronological age. The main thing is that toddlers are past the stage in which they are locked into oppositional battles ("No! I don't want ice cream!").
Make the rewards fairly
Younger kids need more immediate satisfaction of experiencing the reward, while older kids can understand working toward longer-term rewards.
Set small, very specific goals
Don't try to change too many things at once. If you try to work on getting to school on time, being nice to siblings and cleaning up toys all at once, that's too much. It's better to target just one or two actions at a time.
The Urban Infant -decided to come up with 3 unique, wacky, and and motivational rewards for 2018 that are perhaps more fun than the a simple sticker chart.
1. “Dinner Boss”
Let your child be the executive decision for the family dinner one night that week. Let them choose the menu you cook, perhaps with a few parameters (like the mean needs to include one vegetable). But if the rest of the meal looks wacky – let it be that way!
2. “Run Around The Block Reward!”
For fun, your child (with the family) runs around your city block. Make it a hilarious thing, run sideways, run backwards, circle the trees as you pass them. The rewards costs nothing, gives your family a quick chance to raise your heartbeat, and keeps your kids laughing.
3. “Build Your Own Sundae.”
We actually did this in our house growing up. The only flavor of ice cream in our freezer was vanilla – and mom gave you one (big!) scoop. You got to pour anything on it that you could find in the kitchen. Cereal, nuts, potato chips, marshmallows, peanut butter – you get the trick! My brother Eric was infamous for the best creations. (Btw, we still do this at our family reunions.)
4. “Just Me Time.”
When your kid completes a chore or behavior goal, schedule an special 15 minute activity with mom (or dad) and your child - SOLO. This is a great reward when there are multiple siblings in the house. Set a kitchen timer for 15 minutes and find a secret spot in the house. You can even be clever and go hide in a closet with your child – bring a flashlight, books, or memorize some funny jokes. No one else is allowed in!