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Reward Systems

Teens and tweens often exhibit poor behavior, balk at doing chores, and avoid participating as active members of the family. During this time of development, tweens and teens may keep to themselves or stay busy with friends. It's important for parents to keep kids motivated about other aspects of their lives, too. It seems counter-intuitive to use a reward system to get your child to perform well in school, take out the trash, and spend time with the family, but motivation is often linked to rewards, so give it a try.

Reward System: Setting it Up

The first step in building a reward system is to make it clear exactly what behaviors will be rewarded. Completing chores on time, getting good grades, and helping younger siblings with homework are all positive behaviors that should be reinforced.

  • Tailor the reward system to your child. Simply rewarding good behavior won't necessarily motivate more good behavior, so be sure that you know what your child needs a little push to achieve. For example, if your teen gets great grades but keeps to herself at home, praise her for spending extra time with the family or cleaning the kitchen without being asked.
  • Make the rewards worth the effort. Praise works for many children, because they crave the approval of their parents. But as kids become teenagers, praise may not be enough. Consider what it is that your child values and help her access it when she does a good job. Use rewards like an allowance, movie tickets, or extra time to spend with friends on the weekends.
  • Monitor success. A good reward system will motivate kids to behave well because they should, not because they will receive an extra five dollars or a ride to the mall. If your reward system is only providing payment for good behavior, rather than instilling a habit, you may need to reassess your strategy.

Bribing your child to behave is useless, because the second the reward is gone she will revert back to old behaviors. Explain why it is important to act a certain way, and rewarding your child for her efforts, and your child will see not only that good things happen when she behaves appropriately, but that you understand and appreciate when she behaves well.