I was reading a conversation happening on Facebook the other day about reward charts and young children. The conversation centered around what kind of chores were included on the chart, and what kind of rewards system was in place with it. Mothers talked about everything from helping sort the laundry to finishing dinner to potty training, and the various rewards and incentives offered to their children.
I read it kind of confused with myself. I’ve been a mother for nearly 14 years. Why didn’t I have anything worthwhile to add to the conversation? Then it occurred to me.
I don’t parent under a rewards system. I parent under an expectations system. It is expected of my children to behave. So, why would I reward what is considered my standard? Instead I discipline when the standard is not met.
When we go in public, my children will behave. There is no choice in the matter, and I don’t offer treats to help make behaving appealing. They’ll behave or they’ll be disciplined.
When we sit down to dinner, I don’t offer dessert as a reward for finishing it. The expectation is that dinner will be eaten. If that expectation is not met, dessert is not allowed. Rather than offer it as an incentive (i.e., “If you eat three more bites, I’ll get you a cookie!”), I remove it as a punishment (i.e., “If you’re not hungry enough for dinner, you’re not hungry enough for a cookie.”).
It is expected that the younger children will pick up their toys and help make their beds. If they don’t, then they get disciplined, and I’ll go so far as to throw toys away that they refuse to pick up (just ask the 8-year-old Kaylee who, after battling her cleaning her room for an hour, had to watch me clean it into a garbage bag – and the next time I told her to clean her room, she cleaned it). Kaylee has specific chores that are to be completed daily, and if they aren’t completed, we remove privileges.
I can’t see chasing after my children and offering reward after incentive after reward to get them to do something or to get them to behave or to get them to eat. My children are WAY too smart and wily to do it that way. They’d play me and negotiate until I pulled my hair out. Instead, I’ve established the boundaries. They will do as I expect. Period. I won’t reward the standard.
I remember Kaylee coming home after a friend told her she got $20 for each A on her report card. Kaylee asked me what I’d give her for each A. I told her she wouldn’t get punished. She and I both laughed. (Disclaimer: I don’t expect straight A’s from my children- I expect their best effort at all times. So far, that has been just about straight A’s with Kaylee. But not always, and I know when she’s given her best effort.)
My kids are GREAT kids. I don’t know if it’s because I parent the way I parent or if God just blessed me with good. But I do think I have much less stress with them than if I did constantly have to offer rewards as an incentive. I do praise good behavior, but it’s a verbal affirmation of meeting expectations and I make it clear that they met the expectations of our family as I’m praising them.
This isn’t intended to be a criticism of parents who do use a rewards system. Every parent is different, and every child is different. I have a friend who started a reward chart for a child who was just not behaving and no punishment worked, and she did so under the advice of a counselor. It has worked tremendously for them, and since I know how much she wanted to just start pulling her own teeth out in frustration, I’m happy that it worked. It just wouldn’t work for me as a parent. (Though, my kids would probably like it – HA!)
Do you use a rewards chart? Is it just for chores, or is behavior included?
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We parent almost the exact same way :)
If my kids had a dime (reward…) for every time they heard: “you will do XYZ because you are part of this FAMILY and we expect EVERYONE to help out” they would be rollin’ in the dough! The only rewards we speak of in this house are spontaneous ones that hubby and I feel that the kids deserve. We DO talk about how generous people are eventually rewarded and often if we catch them in a generous act without prompting we will try to reward it. I am glad to see that others parent this way as well, becuase sometimes I feel a bit guilty since it seems the majority of parents use a reward system. (and if it works for them, great.)
No charts for rewards. Discipline and expecting great behavior always worked for us, too. Everyone would always comment (and still do) about how quiet and behaved my children were. I don’t run around counting to three or anything of that nature. You’re right. Kids are too smart for that. They’ll push your buttons every time!
And I need to add it’s all God’s doing, not ours.
I have been a mother for over 33 years. My oldest is 33, and my youngest is 10. I have used reward systems briefly, but end up quitting them, usually for the reasons you mentioned. I have never thrown anything away that was left out, but have threatened to. I should be stronger that way. It is very interesting to me that you have brought this point up, as I have been toying around with the idea again. Just a few days ago, I bought the supplies to make a chore chart with a reward system. I still think I’ll make the chore chart, but leave out the spot for reward tickets. It seemed kind of silly to me anyway. Thank you for your clarity on this matter!
On my note above I feel compelled to mention I am typing on an iPad. So please ignore my typing mistakes. They probably bother me than other people though. :)
We use reward charts for PTing. It works great for us. Actually, we only used it in the beginning when C was first figuring out when he had to go and now he’s forgotten about it and just goes. We don’t do good behavior charts but only because I had never heard of it. I’m glad just the idea of expectations works for so many people but I’m also glad there are resources out there to help those of us that need them. Mine are both still very young (2.5 and barely 1) so I’ll just play it by ear whether or not we use any kind of behavior charts. Right now just the threat of TO works for C and when it doesn’t it is usually because he is tired or hungry or over-stimulated. He loves to be praised so that is his reward for good behavior. (Fruit snacks and yogurt are also a big hit here!)
we used a rewards system once after we had our second son…it fizzled out and didn’t work anyway! so now we don’t…its much more based on what you do! we didn’t do a potty chart either didn’t need it…i was lucky in the aspect that my oldest pt in a week!
I don’t parent either way, but i would lean towards rewards. I know my kids are good. I believe all children are good. I also know they are not adults. They need time to learn to control themselves and their emotions. I do not believe in punishing them for what they do naturally as immature people. I do think that rewards can often help them focus on learning to behave as mature people. From time to time we have made a list of things to work on and they have been rewarded. Once the problem area had been solved we stopped the system.
My kids are wonderful, they are still immature sometimes, but they really want to be good. I don’t see the point in punishing them for immaturity, when they truly are immature adults.
I think it’s more than children are immature adults. There’s actually brain development stages. That’s one of the reasons it doesn’t work to treat children as adults, and why consequence should come differently at some ages than at others. It all depends on the stage of development.
I know you did 1-2-3 Magic at one time. Does that still work for you? Someone on a board with kids Jeb’s age (almost 3) said she’s trying it and it isn’t working for her. I don’t know anything about it.
We have done reward charts with Patrick at various times. Now that he’s older, I don’t find it as necessary. But we mostly started it at the advice of the counselor. With his ADHD he is short sighted. He can’t focus on things long term without a visual reminder. And the counselor encouraged us to make charts that were only a week long vs a month. Each day he could earn 4 stickers/stamps. He’d get one in the morning for cooperating with getting ready in the morning (he really struggles in the am before his pill kicks in), then one when he came home from school if he had a good day, another for cooperating with getting ready for dinner (cleaning up toys, washing hands, etc) and then another for cooperating at bed time. It was all designed to reward him for working hard at controlling his emotions. It’s ok that he gets angry but not ok for him to blow a gasket. And we never use food as a reward. :-)
yes, 1,2,3 Magic is a great way to teach a child to calm down. it is very different from counting, 1,2,3, which did not work for my kids. We used it for really obnoxious behaviors; things the kid knew they were not allowed to do. The most important part of it is that parents aren’t allowed to complain or discuss the known problem either.
It removes the child from the situation. It gives them a chance to calm down. As you might remember i had to sit with 2 of my kids during timeouts for a while to help them. They didn’t understand and couldn’t control their emotions. I think sometimes, we as parents forget that they really do not know how to control themselves, they have to be taught how.
Yes -they absolutely have to be taught how. My son Scott is highly emotional. He’s getting better every day about learning how to control those emotions. Non-reacting and patience have been my 2 greatest assets.
I figured you know I was talking about you – lol.
i hope that you’re at least acknowledging the good things they are doing. I understand not giving them rewards, but positive reinforcement goes a long way.
Of course I do.