Rewarding kids can be a contentious issue. Some argue that handing out kids rewards for either performing tasks that should otherwise be expected, or to get your kids to do something, is tantamount to bribery or even encourages materialism. Others (including myself) strongly argue that offering rewards for kids to perform certain chores, to stop certain behaviors, or to encourage new and better behaviors, is an effective parenting tool (of course following established rules, and being appropriate with the kids rewards you offer).
The truth is that both sides of the argument has merit. It’s true that we need to regulate how we reward our children to prevent falling into the realm of “bribery”, as it is also true that offering kids rewards using a structured reward plan, is both effective and ethical.
For those parents who have those very legitimate concerns that rewarding kids can often equate to bribery, and also for those parents whose reward plans such as using reward charts, sometimes pushes into that grey area between bribery and rewarding kids, here are some guides to prevent bribery and prevent the issue of materialism:
Kids Rewards: Practices to Prevent Materialism
- Only hand over the agreed reward after the task has been completed, or the behavior has been followed.
- Choose and offer kids rewards that aren’t materialistic at heart. For example extra story or play time, or a trip to the beach etc.
- Consider using larger kids rewards or more generous rewards for those problems that you know will require a very big effort from your child. This may be a behavior or habit that is very hard to give up or very uncomfortable to carry out. For example thumb sucking, wearing glasses in class despite teasing, or forgoing time with their friends to go to out-of-school tutoring.
- Don’t forget that you should be considered a reward for your kids as well. Your time and attention can be an extremely powerful motivator and one that should never be underestimated, especially for younger children. Offer your time for games, activities, story telling, camping, fishing, picnicking, baking a cake, etc.
Being sensible about the kids rewards you offer, how you administer the reward process, and recognizing that a parents time and attention can be rewarding in and of itself, can help to avoid the slippery slope of materialism and bribery.
This is particularly true for those parents who are still skeptical about the process of handing over anything that could be considered a material reward. For those on this side of the argument, a reward plan will work just as well (some might suggest better) by offering only non-material rewards for kids. Always keep in mind that a well designed reward plan will be flexible enough to allow for all strategies for establishing kids rewards.