How to Encourage & Reward Your Child (without bribes or spending money!)

How do you reward and encourage your child without resorting to spending money or using bribes?

Rewards need not be physical, expensive items for children. You can encourage and reward your child in simple, effective measures which make everyone happy wihtout spending any money.

1.) Instil In Your Children Self-Satisfaction
If you set clear instructions or tasks the child is able to achieve, you let your child build their own confidence. Everyone should learn to give themselves a pat on the back because you don’t always get “thanks” in the big world out there. Remember in school when the teachers said “Give yourself a pat on the back!”, the same applies to parenting. Teach your children to be satisfied with their own achievements and happy with themselves.

If you have teens, this method will probably get eye rolls and complaints, but just because they are older, doesn’t mean they can’t learn to revel in self-satisfaction.

2.) Have A Routine
This is more about encouraging your kids to do what is needed. When there are problem periods e.g. before school or before bedtime, we find encouragement in the form of routine. When the same task is practised at the same time every day, it begins to happen on autopilot. Guide your children with their routine at the start, despite how frustrating it can be at times and how much effort it seems to take to get them to do it, it will be worth it!

Tell your children what you’re planning on doing, include them in the planning process then write your routine down on (use pictures if needed) so they can see what order things happen in. You can use stickers but a simple and free method is to simply place a tick in the box. Most children will get a thrill by simply using a pen and achieving their task. Smiles all around.

3.) Create Teamwork
Young children love to imitate their parents, so the best way to encourage them is to lead by example. If this means writing your name on the routine as well, then do it! Make it fair and ensure everyone in the family has the same rules.

4.) Give Praise
It’s sometimes hard to acknowledge when things are going well, it’s usually the whinging, whining and tantrums that get our attention. As a result, because kids get attention when they are behaving like they, they will do it more to get more attention. Instead, flip it around. Don’t give the attention when the behaviour is bad and instead, remember to ‘reward’ and give attention to good behaviour. This does not mean you can let all bad behaviour slide, discipline and guidance from parents is still required but stop giving in or paying attention to the whining, whingeing and behaviour you don’t want to happen anymore.

If you are guilty of not giving praise when the children have done a good job, put a reminder in your phone or set a time such as dinner when you praise your kids! Remember, praise the task, not the person (i.e. “I really liked how you put your toys in the toybox” instead of “good girl/boy”).

5.) Set Challenges
One way to encourage a child is to challenge them. Children appreciate learning new things and get a huge sense of accomplishment when achieving something new, just like adults. Continue to review their tasks and achievements and gently guide them into taking the next step.

Another way to set challenges is to set timers and see if they can beat the timer when doing certain chores or getting ready for school etc.

6.) Let Your Children Choose
The power of choice builds confidence in children, however, the trouble usually arises when they choose something that’s not available to them or isn’t allowed. Tantrums are guaranteed then we’re in trouble again. Offer your children a choice with guidelines, for example, “Would you like an apple or a pear?”, rather than “What fruit would you like?”. Offer as many choices throughout the day as you can manage, and build them up in broader and broader options so they can learn to make their own choices and decisions.

7.) Set Goals
As an adult, if I want to achieve something, I need to set a goal and break it down into little steps to achieve it. If you want your child to get their own breakfast, and it’s usually a nightmare, write a list of smaller steps to achieve it and share them with the child.

You need to turn off the tv, set the table, gather your utensils, gather your food, and sit down to eat, then put your plates away.

That’s quite a list for a little child to remember when you simply instruct them to “get your breakfast”. Break down the instructions into simple, easy to remember tasks and when it’s finished, they get a reward (i.e. broader choice of breakfast options, or a point {see below for points system}). As the days progress, fewer rewards are offered and instructions become broader until it becomes auto-pilot for them.

For older kids, let them set some of their own goals and put them up. For example, to help them with saving money print or draw a graph with $5 sections they can colour in as they save. It’s a visual reminder and a great way to help them achieve their goals.

8.) Points System
Generally, older children only want to help around the home if money is the reward. You could try swapping money for points with the reward being an activity or treat (e.g a movie of their choice, meal of their choice {with limits}, play their favourite board game etc). This system can be used on younger children and toddlers too. Keep a tally of the points on a chart placed in a public place as a reminder.

Some of these rewards, such as a movie will cost money, but there are ways to do it cheaper or you could create a list of free rewards your kids like.

Just because pocket money was associated with chores when you grew up or that is how your friends do it, doesn’t mean you need to continue that way. It’s up to you if you connect chores with money or make rewards monetary.

9.) Increase Privileges
An effective, free reward to encourage children is to increase their privileges. This works great in conjunction with the points system provided you avoid using them as bribes. It makes children feel extra special, and grown up! These could include staying up 15 minutes later, inviting a friend over, exemption from a chore, baking their favourite cake/treat or extra time on their favourite hobby. My kids favourite is staying up late or picking a movie to watch as a family on the weekend. We do a family fun night on Friday’s, so picking an extra movie for Saturday night is a special treat.

10.) Love and Affection
Whilst there should be an abundance of love and affection at all times, it’s always extra special nice to get a great big hug and kiss as a reward for doing a good job. Young children get the biggest thrill when we encourage and reward with love and cuddles (teens usually like it, in private…). It can be hard to do this when they’re going through clingy fazes, but together with all the other suggestions above, cuddles are a necessity.

11.) Know your kids love language
Have you heard of the 5 love languages? It was a life changer for me in both adult relationships and the relationships with my kids. My knowing what their love language is, I am able to reward them properly in the way they most feel loved.

What tips do you have for rewarding your children without using money?

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