Reward Charts for Young Children
Should we encourage shop bought or free incentives for children's reward charts?
Sally our experienced parenting programme facilitator shares her thoughts:
Whilst facilitating a parenting programme session recently, I had just explained the reward chart and sticker process, when a parent asked what kind of rewards were they supposed to give their children, as they can’t afford lots of stuff, and this could get expensive.
I explained how the stickers were the reward and we do not have to buy anything to reward our children, this started a big discussion. Some of the parents said their children would not be happy with just some ‘stupid stickers’, whilst others accepted the stickers would be enough or some other form of inexpensive treat would suffice.
I am writing about this is because I have found this to be a familiar response from parents: When talking about reward charts or rewarding good behaviour, parents will nearly always feel they have to buy the child something or do an activity which can become expensive.
I was wondering how and why parents have gotten into this trap of rewarding children. We seem to have to buy them the latest this or that; trainers, MP3 players, mobile phone, consoles and games. When I was a child, a biscuit or a picnic in the garden worked well enough! But times have changed and there is pressure on parents to spend money on kids so they don’t feel left out.
I have been guilty of rewarding my children with bought rewards they wanted, though this does not happen all the time. Rewards are not usually expensive and the children would have to have tried really hard to accomplish a task to gain a bigger than usual reward.
On the odd occasion I have used 'a wanted item', like the proverbial carrot to get them to change behaviour, it had only been after trying the ‘sticker’ chart and not having any luck even though I was consistent and I did it by the book (well I would wouldn’t I, I am a facilitator!)
For example I had problems getting my five year old to go to sleep in her own bed and stay there. I tried a sticker chart for a couple of weeks, but wasn’t having much luck, the problem continued, even though I was being consistent.
So I offered an incentive (a Peppa Pig umbrella). She had to stay in her bed for five nights to earn the umbrella...... and she desperately wanted the Peppa Pig umbrella! It worked! I got to enjoy my evenings and sleep without being kicked all night. By that time she had got used to sleeping in her bed and didn’t come back to mine.
When a problem occurs and other methods of discipline have not been successful, I have tried some of the things on the list below I have put together with parents on parenting programmes - rewards and activities can be inexpensive or free. I have to mention these activities are more for younger children and it seems that as they get older the pressure to ‘buy’ becomes harder to resist.
Low Cost or Free Rewards
Treasure Hunt – indoors or outside
Dressing up – you keep the dressing up box
Make–up - Lip gloss, paint nails (before bath time!)
Drumming - band practice (on pots and pans with wooden spoons)
Trying shoes on (mum’s high heels or dad's wellies?)
Face packs - made with porridge oats
Splodging - wellies and raincoats
Crabbing if you live by or travel to the coast
Nature table - ladybird house - wormery - bird feeder
Christmas cards/ crackers/paper chains
Tents and picnic (clothes horse and sheets/blankets)
Dolly hospital - toilet roll bandages
Snakes and ladders
Playing post office
Visit the library
Have a tea party
Hopscotch - need chalk
Make an obstacle course
Playing shops - buy and sell tinned food for 1ps and 2ps
Plant seeds - including apple pips, avocado seed, cress etc
Sleepovers - sleeping bags, torches, DVD, popcorn
Dens/boats from cardboard boxes
Shows - rope or string and blankets to make curtains
Go to park - feed ducks, roll down the hill
Visit local museum (most are free, but check before you go)
Have a friend round to play
Go swimming (it’s free for under 16’s)
Make puppets from old socks
Go on an adventure/mystery walk/trip
Build snowman (depending on weather!)
Collect shells at the beach (if you live close to one)
Family capsule - put photos, colouring pictures, poems etc in a Tupperware box.
If you have activities to add or some ideas for older children send me a message (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll add them to the list.
Have a look at these great Reward Charts that you can print out and the children can colour in