Rewards can be a great way to encourage positive behaviour, such as helping with chores, lending a hand when someone is struggling, or just doing something nice for someone. The absence of rewards can also provide a contrast when children are behaving appropriately.
One of the best things about reward systems is flexibility. You can keep changing them as your child grows up, meaning that you can always give positive reinforcement for good behaviour. Whether you have a young child who doesn’t want to share their toys or a teenager who tries to avoid doing their share of tasks around the home, positive reinforcement can help.
What is a reward system?
A reward system is a way to encourage kids to show positive behaviours, such as doing chores, being kind and polite, or doing well at school. The important thing about a reward system is that it rewards good behaviour rather than punishing bad behaviour. You can use general reward systems, or have different chore reward systems and behaviour reward systems.
Benefits of a reward system
So, why do people use reward systems? Reward systems have a big range of benefits for both parents and kids:
- Helps the whole household focus on good behaviours and positive outcomes
- Improves a child's self-esteem
- Encourages responsibility
- Helps teach a child the importance of being independent
- Encourages children to develop life skills
- Decreases stress for both children and parents
- Improves relationships between parents and children
- Can be more effective than punishing negative behaviours
- Can be used to start teaching positive behaviours from a young age
What is the goal of a reward system?
The goal of a kids' reward system isn't about the rewards, it's about the behaviours that you can teach your children. Rewarding your kids helps reinforce the things you want them to learn or do, like chores and aren't about bribing children to do good things. You should focus on giving them suitable rewards for the tasks they do — nothing too big for a simple chore — and agree on the rewards ahead of time. This helps teach them responsibility and independence, and it shows them the benefits of hard work. Plus, kids can start to learn to value their time when they have tasks that they can do for rewards, which is an important skill for when they reach adulthood.
To make sure your reward system is working towards the right goals, our top tips are:
- Keep your system simple
- Don't offer too much for simple behaviours or chores
- Don't use rewards to placate your children when they are showing bad behaviour
How do you create an effective reward system?
There are two main aspects to a reward system. First of all, your child should be able to see how good behaviour means progress towards a reward. Secondly, the reward should be something that motivates them – and there are plenty of ways you can reward your kids.
Showing visible progress in a reward system is simple. There are a variety of techniques for displaying progress, whether with coloured bars or stickers on a paper chart or setting tasks through the GoHenry app.
Using the GoHenry app, kids can tick off tasks when they complete them, which means you and your children can see all their progress.
Picking suitable rewards is usually quite easy. All you need to do is figure out what will encourage your children to do their set tasks. The reward will depend on the age of your kids as well as their individual interests. One common reward is pocket money – and there are benefits to giving your kids pocket money – but not all rewards have to be financial. You could also reward your child with extra screen time, a later bedtime, a visit to the park, or going to see a film or live performance. Find out what your child really enjoys and what kind of treat will motivate them, and then let them know how they can earn it.
No matter your child's age, you can use the same basic reward system. Assign a value for different tasks, whether that’s a monetary value or a certain number of points. Once they've earned enough money or enough points, then they can exchange or 'spend' them on a reward. If you decide to give your children pocket money through a pocket money app like GoHenry, then they can spend what they've earned how they like.
Discover our favourite reward system ideas here.
Reward system for 6 – 9 year olds
For younger children, a simple reward system often works well. At this age, it's particularly important for them to see the effect of their good behaviour right away. If you delay in rewarding your child, they might not fully remember what they got rewarded for, which can make it harder to reinforce good habits.
It’s also worthwhile to remember not to overwhelm your child if they're very young. Do make sure that your child knows exactly what they did right to earn a reward. A task list can be beneficial here, as it clearly shows them what they can do to receive rewards.
At this age, the main thing is to impart a positive association with doing what they're asked to do. This means that if you want to give pocket money for tasks, you might want to give a small set amount – for example, 50p per task complete.
Top tips for success with reward systems for 6 - 9-year-olds
- Give praise as well as rewards - younger kids might not fully associate the reward with praise, so it's important to make sure they feel good about what they are being rewarded for
- Keep rewards simple - Rewards should be small and simple so that your child can associate each reward with the behaviour or task they did. Only reward for multiple behaviours at once if you're certain your kid understands. Otherwise, stick to a small individual reward such as sweets.
- Explain why they are being rewarded - Make sure your kid knows why each task or behaviour gets a reward
Reward system for pre-teens
Pre-teens can usually handle more complex reward systems, which means that you can start giving tasks and chores a value system. This means that your tween could earn a bigger reward for washing your car compared with a smaller reward for a daily chore like making their bed.
You can find out more here about how much you should pay your child for doing chores.
Again, rewards can either be financial – where you assign each task a cash reward – or you can give rewards that don’t cost money. Tweens can often still be motivated by having a later bedtime on the weekend or getting to play games for an extra hour.
Top tips for success for pre-teen reward systems
- Give different rewards for different things - At this age, kids can understand different types of tasks and behaviours more, so it's good to give bigger rewards for more important or time-consuming things
- Ask what rewards they want - It's worth asking what type of reward your kids want for certain tasks. For example, ask if they would like more screen time or some extra pocket money. However, remember that you're the parent and get to decide how big a reward they get or what type of reward is suitable.
- Explain behaviours more - At older ages, you can explain why certain behaviours are good, as well as how helping out around the house is beneficial.
Reward system for teens
Many teens may feel they’ve outgrown the reward systems of their childhood years, and this is generally a good thing. By this age, teens will want to avoid sticker charts, and they’ll want to use something a bit more flexible – and a bit less obvious if their friends come to visit. This means that a value system can be great for teens, as they’ll get to see how the time and effort they put into their chores earn them money or points.
If you want to give your teenager pocket money, a reward system with different values for different tasks can work very well to keep them motivated. There's plenty of guidance on how much pocket money to give by age and chore. Of course, money isn’t the only way to reward as teens still respond well to treats such as hosting a sleepover or organising a special outing.
Top tips for success for teen reward systems
- Ask what rewards they want - At this age, your kid will respond well to having more input in their rewards, as they will want that respect and sense of independence. Though, as before, you can still reject inappropriate suggestions — just explain why.
- Have a tally system for bigger rewards - If there's a big reward your kid wants, like a visit to a theme park, you can tally up their progress to help them see how their rewards are adding up. Seeing visual proof of their progress is very important.
- Consider extra rewards for unexpected good behaviours - At this age, kids are learning to become adults. If they've done an extra chore, helped a neighbour, or shown extra kindness, you might want to consider an extra reward, as this encourages them to take initiative in helping people around them. This can help make a smoother transition between telling them what chores to do, and then helping out whenever they see something that needs doing.
Common mistakes to try and avoid with a reward system
A reward system is a great way to motivate kids, but there are some issues to avoid:
- Don't bribe - If your kid is showing bad behaviour, giving them a reward to stop can give the wrong message. Instead, focus on the positives and the good behaviours that you want them to show.
- Keep rewards appropriate - A reward that's too big can look like getting something for nothing. Giving appropriate rewards can help reinforce the importance of hard work.
- Don't expect perfection on the first try - It's going to take your kids a while to pick up some of their behaviours or figure out how to do chores properly. If your kid struggles the first time but is still trying hard, it's still important to reward them. You want to encourage them to act in the right way — getting it perfect will take a bit more time.
Set rewards with GoHenry
The GoHenry app makes it simple to set tasks for your children. You can assign each child a customised list, and they can tick off tasks as they complete them. This is a great way to keep track of tasks, and it can help your older children feel motivated to complete their chores. Once you confirm their task is complete, any additional pocket money you've decided to give them gets sent to their kids' debit card, making it easy to reward your kids.
The important thing to remember is that the main aim of a reward system is to encourage positive behaviour.