Children who receive rewards for good behaviour make the connection early on between acting appropriately and gaining a good outcome. However, if rewards are used too often, they can become bribes or children can manipulate them and only behave well when they want something.
To avoid these situations, parents should use rewards sparingly and only offer them for momentous occasions. Even then the rewards themselves do not need to be momentous. Instead parents can offer their kids a variety of inexpensive rewards that acknowledge the kids’ behaviour but don’t blow the family budget. Books, stickers, craft items, notebooks, socks, a DVD rental and a meal out are all inexpensive items that make great rewards for good behaviour.
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Children of all ages can enjoy books, from picture books for toddlers to chapter books for older children. However, because paperback books cost much less than hardback books parent might want to make this distinction early. Parents will also want to set ground rules about book selection, including any characters or series that kids are not allowed to read. After that it is up to the parent to decide if (s)he will keep books at home to use as rewards as needed, or if particularly good behaviour will be rewarded with a trip to the bookshop so that kids can pick out their own books.
Stickers generally come in inexpensive packs, so parents can choose either to reward good behaviour with a pack of stickers or with just one sheet. Stickers range from scratch-and-sniff items to cartoon characters and generic shapes like hearts and stars. Girls in particular tend to like stickers, though don’t underestimate the power of a cool car or sports sticker to excite little boys. If you do decide to use stickers are rewards, remind kids of where stickers can be stuck, such as an album or notebook, and not where they are not allowed, such as on walls and doors.
Craft items, including coloured pencils, markers, coloured paper, modelling clay, paints and sparkles/sequins can all make great rewards for kids who engage in good behaviour. However, parents should remember that arts and crafts projects generally get messy and require adult supervision, so craft items should not be given as rewards if parents are not willing to let their kids use these items immediately.
Kids love to have their own property and being awarded their own notebooks open all kinds of possibilities to them. They can write in them, draw in them, stick stickers in them and much more. Rewarding kids with small notebooks, particularly those in a favourite colour or with favourite characters on them, not only rewards them for good behaviour but encourages for quiet play as well.
All kids need socks and most kids enjoy picking out socks with fun colours, patterns, characters or accessories, such as bows and sparkles. Socks are also inexpensive items that can be kept around the house making them perfect for stockpiling and using as rewards as needed.
Parents who allow their children to watch television and/or movies may find that allowing their kids to rent DVDs is a well-received reward. DVD rentals are usually inexpensive and children’s areas are clearly marked in most stores, so allowing children to pick their own is possible. Parents may also find that their local public library rents DVDs at little or no cost which would make this reward even less expensive.
A Meal Out
When kids do a particularly good job at something, or add up ‘points’ from a variety of good behaviours, then a meal out may be a good reward. Children’s menus are offered every place from fast food restaurants to local cafes, so the cost of a child’s meal out is not usually all that expensive. By deciding on the establishment beforehand parents also keep control of the food options, or parents can treat children to a meal that they order in so that the kids don’t necessarily need to be involved in the ordering.
Inexpensive rewards for good behaviour are great ways to keep kids excited about behaving well. With a little creativity parents can reward their children’s behaviour with fun, exciting items that won’t break the bank.