Reward plans are great. Used with respect and consistency, a good reward plan can be highly effective in targeting and eliminating problem behaviors. A reward plan can include reward charts, token economy, behavior contracts, rewards, stickers, certificates, tokens, tickets, and so on… As long as it is a structured and observable, you can really use your imagination.
Although we sell great reward chart packages and a fantastic reward coins token economy on this website, with a good imagination, and the material and effort to make it, almost anyone can put together a good reward plan.
Here are some steps that are useful to follow:
1. Work Out What Behavior Problem To Tackle
- You may want to work on changing many behavioral problems but the best chance of success lies in your choosing one or two at a time.
- It’s important not to overwhelm your child, and it’s always helpful if your child recognizes the troublesome behavior.
- Be specific with the behaviors you want to target. a “tidy room” may mean different things to you and your child. “toys off the floor, bed made, tidy desk, and clothes in the hamper” are specific and clear targets for both parties.
- Make the reward plan easily achievable to start with. For example keeping a tidy room may start with rewarding the act of putting shoes away, or straitening bed covers. This gives your child a taste of success, builds their confidence in the reward plan, and makes success more likely. Also remember that while delayed gratification is an important lesson to learn, this ability takes time for children to develop, particularly with younger children – in other words don’t make it too long before they reach their goal.
2. Select a Reward Plan (Reward Charts or Tokens) and the Reward On Offer
- Pick a reward chart theme that matches your child’s personality and interests (this will help with their motivation). Most times children appreciate being a part of this process. Also the number of sticker spots on a reward chart might relate to your child’s age or stage of development (for example our reward charts come in 10 or 20 sticker spot versions).
- Many children (especially older children) will respond better to token or tickets (more on token economy system here).
- Choose rewards that will interest and motivate your children. It can be very useful to involve your children during this process, or even to provide a list of rewards on offer for your child to choose from (what rewards to offer), however it’s important to keep control here. Don’t give in to outlandish requests, or offer rewards in moments of desperation.
3. Introduce The Reward Plan With Your Children
- While it’s fair to say that generally young kids accept a reward plan easily, often older kids can be a bit more difficult (..maybe I should use the world “worldly” here :)) In these cases involve your children in the process. Give them the chance to negotiate (if appropriate), and let them know that it’s a joint effort, it’s not just you in control of this ship.
4. Follow Through With the Reward Plan
- Be consistent and stick with the spirit of the reward plan. If your child agreed to brush their teeth every night before bed, then hold them to it. If they refuse, offer them your sympathies that they won’t be earning a sticker or token, and remind them they will have another chance to earn the sticker tomorrow night. Often their refusal will be their way of “testing” the integrity of the reward plan, and to check how serious you’re taking it. If that’s the message they’re getting, then they will move forward.
- Even when you’re feeling particularly worn out and tired, and your children are especially grumpy, try to stick with the plan.
- If you’re being worn down or your child is loosing motivation, try not to just stop the reward plan halfway through. Use the “hump” as an opportunity to sit down with your child and talk with them. Maybe there’s other issues holding them back. Being honest and upfront can be a great way to connect with your child, reconnect with the reward plan, to re-establish the goals, and to get back to it.
- Always keep in mind that a reward plan should be a positive experience. Avoid fighting with your children over the plan, don’t belittle or efforts, or tell them off for failing to earn a sticker or token. As hard as it might be try and keep your frustrations away from the reward plan. Finding other avenues to vent can be useful (I hear boxercise can be fantastic for this :))
5. Ending the Reward Plan
- Recognizing their effort in completing the reward plan is fitting, and often all that is required. A “well done!”, “I’m proud of you!”, or “good for you!” comment can really go a long way. As a part of our reward charts package we offer a number of “I did it!” certificates that your child can collect, put on the wall or in a scrapbook, and reflect on their efforts. Or making your own certificates is easy and can really “round out” the reward plan.
- You should also be delivering the earned reward as promptly as possible – your child has earned it.
- Avoid using the earned reward as leverage for future confrontations (for different behaviors). For example if your child has earned a sleepover, game, or extra playtime before bed, then it would be against the spirit of the reward plan to take away that item or reward (as long as they are keeping the targeted behavior in check). If there are more behavior problems to deal with, then start the process again. If their earned reward stays intact, then they will be even more trusting of the process next time around.