Parents: How Far Should We Go To Reward Children?

At the thought of a reward everyone’s mood improves, even children. They are at the top of the scale when we talk about who loves rewards the most. As parents, you may feel a strong desire to reward your children every time they do something exceptional. It is a good approach to showing appreciation and encouraging the best behaviour, but how far should you go?

Offering rewards can turn out to having only positive outcomes if you do it right; this is what we will be discussing in this post. After giving a reward, it is likely that you will see a repeat of good behaviour, and your child will expect another reward. Some parents even go as far as rewarding their children for getting good grades and punishing them for bad ones. Jessica Lahey, a teacher, and author of “The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed” discusses the issues with rewarding for grades in her post: The big problem with rewarding kids for good grades and punishing them for bad ones

Is it a good thing to link rewards to good behaviour, where do we draw the line and encourage responsibility? As children grow into adults, they need to understand the importance of being a responsible member of the community.

In this context, responsibility means doing the right thing without expecting a reward or any incentives. It is possible that our children may lose this connection if we ‘overdo’ the rewards for good behaviour.


Positive impact of rewarding your children

1. Encouraging good behaviour

As mentioned earlier, your children will strive to do the right thing because they expect rewards. From another angle, this behaviour can be imitated by others, children at school or younger siblings, so it is a big win.

2. Connecting with your children

The reward system is a good ice-breaker and a starting point to improving your relationship with your children. However it is important to set ground rules. Think about it, they will have an incentive because of which they may begin taking things as a way of life. This will also give you an opportunity to teach them a thing or two about life, give them a value system, talk about hygiene, and most importantly where to draw the line. In other words you may be able to teach them how to be balanced individuals.

3. Forming a good habit

Over time, the positive attitude you have been rewarding will become a good habit. This is a good thing if the child maintains this habit until their older years. Everyone will be happy.

What happens when there is no reward?

For instance, at some point, you are not able to offer the rewards your child expects, what happens? This situation can go either way; you could reason with the child depending on their age, they might understand. On the other hand, you are stuck with an unruly child who doesn’t stop throwing tantrums until they get their reward.

At this point, it can feel like you have been making a mistake. Retracing your steps will be difficult. This leads us to the negative aspects of using the reward system to ‘compel’ good behaviour in children.

Unfortunately, there you may have some negative experiences too; here are some of the issues you can face by using offering rewards too often.

The negative impact of rewarding your children

1. Misconception

Your good intentions may be misunderstood. It is possible that your children may grow to expect a reward for everything. This misconception can cause a change of attitude when you fail to offer a reward after a seemingly good deed. You may end up being ‘blackmailed’ by your little children or need to go through the lengthy process of explaining that there shouldn’t always be a reward for good behaviour.

2. Lack of motivation to do the right thing

When you child suspects the era of rewards has ended, they may not be willing to do the right things anymore. This is a tricky situation and must be handled carefully. Seek professional help if you cannot handle the situation.

3. Demand for material gratification

Your child can become so used to receiving rewards; they can start demanding more things, even when nothing has been done to warrant a reward. For example, new toys, the latest video games and other things that may be too expensive. This attitude was formed over time because you may have gone too far with the rewards. But there are ways to correct your child.

So here’s the thing, rewards are great, but you should do it with caution. Our aim as parents should be to raise well-balanced children.

Parents: 4 things you may consider while rewarding your child

1. Set Ground Rules

As mentioned earlier, set the ground rules. Focus on helping your child understand the need to do the right thing without expecting any rewards.

2. Minimal Rewards

You may offer minimal rewards, nothing too expensive so the bar is not raised too high.

3. Talk about Expectations

Encouraging your child to do the right thing without expecting any incentives will be even better because rewards, when they come, will be unexpected and a delightful experience. If you get it right, everyone wins.

Don’t let your child manipulate you and don’t use rewards to satiate your guilt.

4. Children Need your Time & Attention – not gifts!

Always remember, children need your time and not gifts and spending quality time with them is always the biggest reward for them.

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Rohini Vij

Rohini is a professional storyteller, educator, listed & certified Jolly Phonics UK trainer, curriculum developer, parenting coach, founder of NutSpace. She is on a mission to raise readers and is actively engaged with curriculum development for schools and her own ed-tech platform - Nutspace Edtech.

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