Eight points to keep in mind when setting up a reward program:
1. Use rewards that are meaningful for your child that she does not get all the time. If it is something your child gets on a regular basis, such as being able to play video games, then rewarding with video games will have little effect. However, if video games are limited to a few hours on the weekend, earning an extra half hour during the week could be very motivating for your child.
2. Your child may need an immediate reward. Especially for younger children, children who are impulsive or who have cognitive delays, they may respond best to being rewarded immediately. It is important to figure out what works best for your child.
3. If you child can wait to earn his reward, have him earn tokens, points, tickets, stickers, coins, etc. – when he does what you ask. Then, once he earns a certain number of points, he can exchange them something he wants.
4. Have a clear reward, and what it takes to earn it. For example, when she gets to 10 points, she can choose her favorite dinner.
5. Using a chart or drawing helps your child keep track of what he is earning. This helps him stay motivated and know exactly what he needs to do to get what he wants. Using strategies such as collecting marbles in a jar often doesn’t work for very long, because it takes a long time to earn the reward, and it’s a vague and inconsistent amount of marbles. This website offers free printable behavior charts.
6. If possible, have your child participate in setting up the reward program.
7. Keep it positive. Once your child earns something, do not take it away.
8. Change up the program from time to time to keep your child interested. As your child’s behavior improves, you can make it a little harder to earn the reward, for example, having her earn 15 points instead of 10 in order to go to dinner. Or, you can fade out the points as she becomes more cooperative, so that the rewards become more natural, such as allowing her to go out and play when her homework is done.
Reinforcement programs can be very effective, but can also be tricky to make them effective. You may need to seek the help of a professional if the behavior problems are very persistent, frequent, and especially if there is a risk to health and safety.
Contact us if you have questions, or need assistance in determining the best way to reward your child.