Creative Reward Ideas for Children

In my last post I wrote about how important it is that parents not focus exclusively on curbing poor behavior, but that they encourage good behavior though rewards. If you truly want to be successful in raising an obedient child you have to make their desires your desires and vice versa. In other words, you want them to take an active interest in the work of culling bad habits from their lives and replacing them with good ones.

If all you do to get your children to behave is to scare them with yelling and threats and punishments, you might get outward obedience, but you may never get inward obedience. They will submit only to avoid your wrath and that won't last forever. Bitterness will eventually settle in and at that point there is no amount of yelling that will get them to come around. 

Rewards and consequences are all about making your expectations perfectly clear to your children.

Rewards and consequences are all about making your expectations perfectly clear to your children. Rewards say, "I'm pleased when you do this and I'd like you to keep doing it," (like consistently cleaning your room) and consequences say, "This is displeasing to me and I want you to stop doing it," (like sneaking candy into bed at night and having a little candy party with your brother even after you 1. were supposed to be in bed sleeping 2. had already brushed your teeth and 3. were told earlier in the day you couldn't have any more candy as a consequence for disobedience! Anyone else have this happen to them? lol).

The bottom line is your children really do want to please you and sometimes there's no better way to show them how pleased you are with their good efforts than by rewarding them with a special item or activity.

So, without further ado, here's a list of things you could do to bless your child and encourage obedience in them:

"Spotlight" Rewards

Words of encouragement and pats on the back are nice, but sometimes your child does something that deserves to be recognized in a special way. I call these "spotlight" rewards and they don't have to cost a thing.

  • Make their favorite meal and have a moment at the dinner table where you call the whole family's attention to their accomplishment.
  • Give them a day off of chores (and make sure everyone is aware of why they get the day off).
  • Call a Grandparent or family member and put them on speaker phone (or FaceTime) while you proudly explain what they've done.
  • Create a special certificate and give it to them in recognition of their accomplishment during a meal time or other family gathering.
  • If you want to make the reception of the certificate extra special, you could put on a mock ceremony where your child is the guest of honor and you're bestowing a special honor upon them as the King or Queen. This is really fun!

Reward Systems

It should come as no surprise that we're fond of Character Badges around here. :) It has really helped us be more consistent in rewarding our children. It seemed like we used to focus almost exclusively on correcting bad behavior. We hated passing over all the positive things our children were doing so we designed a system that would help us acknowledge and reward our children's good efforts.

Character Badges is great at keeping tabs on multiple forms of good character and encouraging improvement in each area. However, there are a lot of great ways to encourage particular behaviors or actions such as keeping up on one's chores for instance. 

  • Here's a popular post from Becky Mansfield over at Your Modern Family where she outlines how to use cotton balls to incentivize good behavior.
  • WordMarbles is a simple reward system aimed at encouraging kinder speech in your child. This is a PDF download that includes instructions on how to assemble everything. Amazing how some marbles can get children to think about the words coming out of their mouth!
  • You could set up a cash-like system for good behavior or chores. Just write out a list of deeds and assign an amount to each one. You could also create a list of rewards that your child can "purchase" with their earnings (the earnings can be paper money, or plastic coins, or marbles, or just about anything!). 
  • We've built something very similar to this into Character Badges. Good behavior over the course of a month can earn a child Character Coins. These coins can be saved up and turned in for any of the rewards listed on their Rewards Chart! It's a fun and encouraging way to help your children build good habits.

Individual Rewards

These are some things we do in our home to reward our children from time to time. Most of these things are listed on the Rewards Chart in Character Badges, but you can use them any time you think your child deserves a special treat!

  • Take them out for dinner. This could be a fast food meal or a special meal at a sit down restaurant. We've found that what makes it extra special to them is when its just the two of you going out. They really like the one-on-one time.
  • Go for a bike ride. Again, just the two of you.
  • Play a board game of their choice.
  • Have a slumber party. This isn't my favorite one (who likes sleeping on the floor?!) but our children love it. You could play games, tell stories, and buy some special treats. 
  • Take them grocery shopping for a special meal. Set a budget and let them pick out the ingredients for dinner that night. Want to make it extra fun (or scary)? Let them pick whatever they want, just as long as they keep within the budget. Can you say, "Ice cream for dinner?" :)
  • Let them stay up after their bedtime to spend some one-on-one time with you. Are you sensing a pattern here?

What I've found with my children is that what they really want is time with us. Sure, they like Legos and American Girl dolls just as much as any other child, but they also really, and I mean really, enjoy spending time with us. And, if you can make an effort to be creative with your time together it will be all the more memorable.

Have any other creative reward ideas for children? If so, post them in the comments section below! I'd love to hear them!