My daughter said to me a while back, ” Mum do you realise that rewarding us , for doing the right thing is much more of a motivator than punishment for not ? A light bulb went off for me . Gee she is her mother’s daughter that one ! I had a think about his and I thought about the practical application of this . To be honest my daughter is a clever bugger and there is usually an angle. Is she right ? Well I certainly wont be giving out cash every time she loads the dishwasher but she has a point. I would always look to take away privileges like the internet if jobs were not done but perhaps I was coming at it from the wrong end, should I be saying “ahh you have done your jobs without asking here is another hour of internet”. Sounds a bit labour intensive to me. Let’s be fair most of us set out with great intentions and ideas about family rules and expectations, but how often do we stick to them. A week of taking the parental eye off the ball and you can guarantee the kids get slack and conveniently ” forget ” to do what has been pinned to the fridge in Mum’s moment of military might.
Unless I am home 24/7 I can predict with certainty that my two will bend the rules or concoct a convoluted excuse as to why something wasn’t done in a timely manner.
Sometimes asking them nicely to do something ends in mega decibels that my husband and I always regret. Nearly always we realise its own own lack of strategy that culminated in the outburst of frustration and we go back to the drawing board to see where we went wrong. So what can you do to get more regular compliance and a calmer more harmonious family life at home ? There are some things that might help you avoid the yelling and tension which makes everyone feel terrible and does not teach your kids to behave well with others when they are frustrated.
Some tips for rewards and punishments
Don’t set unrealistic goals. If your child doesn’t believe they can achieve their goal, they won’t
try. A general rule of thumb is that your child should earn their reward about 75% of the time.
Rewards must be wanted. A new set of pretty undies isn’t a good reward if your child doesn’t care about
Rewards should be given consistently. Instead of offering one big reward for a
long-term accomplishment, try offering smaller rewards as your child completes steps toward the
larger goal. For example, offer rewards for completing homework rather than a good report .
Children can’t plan for the future in the same way adults do, and a report that’s three months
away feels like it’s a million years away.
Always follow through. If you promise a reward, and don’t follow through, you’ve just made your
life much more difficult. Nobody likes someone who doesn’t put their money where their mouth is and you will lose street cred with your kid. They will not have incentive to do well again . You are also teaching them no to keep their promises .
Be clear about the requirements to receive a reward. It’s likely that your idea of a clean room is
different to your child’s idea of a clean room. Be specific, like this: “If you pick your clothes up off
of the floor and put them in the dresser, vacuum, and make your bed, we will go to a movie.”
Be clear about the reward itself. If you say: “I will buy you a new pair of shoes if you study for at
least one hour every day this week”, your child will be in for a sad realisation when they try to pick
up a $200 pair of runners. Be clear about any limitations on the reward from the start.
Don’t take away rewards that have already been earned. If your child earns a trip to the movies,
and then they get in trouble for something unrelated, don’t take away the reward. You can still use
punishment, but it should be separate. Taking away rewards can lead to a constant sense of defeat
when a child works hard, yet never sees positive outcomes.
Try rewarding good habits instead of good outcomes. For example, reward your child if they
study for an hour each night, instead of rewarding them for an A on a test. Use rewards to teach your
child habits that will eventually lead to the ultimate goal. This is one I regularly I fail on .
Create a few simple and clearly defined rules and punishments. Children will have a hard time
understanding a long or complex list of rules, and there’s no chance for success if they don’t know
what the rules are.
Always follow through. The threat of punishment will quickly become meaningless if the
punishments never actually happen. It’s easy to feel sympathetic and let your kid off the hook, but
this is when you need to put your foot down.
Don’t overdo it. Many parents have a habit of dishing out extreme punishments when they’re
upset. Grounding your child for a month is as much a punishment to you as it is to your child. After
a few days, most parents have cooled down, and they’re tired of having a bored kid around the
house, so they end the punishment early. This tells your child that you don’t really mean it when
you threaten punishments.
Don’t overdo it (part 2). If you ground a child for a month, or take away everything they care
about, your child will have little motivation to be good. To a child, a month seems like an eternity.
Why should they do their homework if they’re grounded “forever” anyway? You’ve just given up all
of your leverage.
Take away privileges. Removing TV , phone ,or internet privileges can be very effective. What is their currency ? Use it.
Never use corporal punishment . Hitting your child might get you what you
want now, but it will cause trouble later on. Children who receive corporal punishment learn that
hitting and violence are appropriate response to their problems, and they tend to be more
aggressive with other children, and they carry this into adulthood.
Never use emotionally painful punishments such as humiliation. Shaming and humiliating children
can irreparably damage your relationship and cause significant distress that results in long-term
Don’t take away something that’s good. If your child calms down by playing guitar, don’t take
away their guitar when they’re angry. If your child is motivated to get good grades so they can play
on their school basketball team, don’t take away basketball.
Talk to your child about why they are being punished, and help them learn. Help your child
develop a strategy to deal with the situation differently in the future. Punishments won’t do much
good if your child doesn’t learn from the experience. Happy parenting !
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