Rewarding Children’s Behavior

When my kids were very young I decided I would minimize bribes and maximize positive reinforcement.  Basically, I decided I was going to mimic with my own children what I did when I was teaching.  I was never the teacher who gave out candy and “prizes”.  Instead, I did a lot of calling attention to the students who were exhibiting the behaviors I was seeking, I wrote a lot of complimentary notes home to parents complimenting their child, I made a lot of happy phone calls home doing the same, I gave out little paper awards for accomplishments big and small and announced them in front of the class, etc.  I tried to reward with positive attention.  It was successful because of the age I taught so I kept at it.  And so that’s pretty much my parenting philosophy.

I don’t like to reward with food or toys or any of that.  (The exception to this rule was potty training… I totally bribed my kids with MnMs.  Ha!)

One way my husband and I call attention to our children’s achievements is with this cute little plate:

When one of our kids has something to celebrate, he or she gets to eat dinner (or whatever meal is best) on this “special plate” while all the rest of us use our regular dinnerware.  It’s just one small way of calling attention to the child and making them feel good about his/her accomplishments.  I’ve used this little plate for just about everything:

  • rewarding a child for a good report card (or in my kids’ cases since they don’t really get “grades” yet, positive comments from a teacher on a report or even in person)
  • showing extreme kindness
  • a stranger commenting in a grocery store about how well behaved and polite my kids were
  • a teacher trusting my child with a significant job
  • taking the initiative (this is a BIG deal in our house!)
  • new accomplishments like learning a new skill (riding a two-wheeler, learning to whistle, and other silly-but-important-to-kids things
  • extreme cases of showing a caring heart (donating to charity from their little coin banks without being asked)
  • and many more

We make a big deal while we’re eating out of why the child gets the plate and talk throughout the meal about it.  It’s so great to see my kiddos beaming with pride!  I’m sure they’d love a reward like dessert or a new toy, but seeing them so happy and proud of themselves is much better… yes, even better than ice cream!  Ha!  😉

It makes me feel great to know that I’m building up their hearts, teaching them lessons through the conversations we have about whatever attribute got them the “special plate” in the first place, and it just makes us all feel good!

What do you think?  How do you reward your children?  What have you found to be the most effective?  I’m always on the hunt for good ideas!

6 thoughts on “Rewarding Children’s Behavior

    • Thanks, Christina. I bought this when my youngest was a BABY knowing I’d use it one day… my guess is that I bought it at TJMaxx/Marshalls. I do think it would work just as well with a bold, solid plain plate. If you just went to Target and bought one bright red plate (assuming your everyday dishes are another color!) then the kids would know that when you pull out that red plate, someone did something great and is going to be the special one at dinner.

  1. I do a grab bag for my daughter if she goes to bed without tantrums and stays in her room by herself. We tried EVERYTHING else, and this is the only thing that has worked. It makes me so much happier to not spending 1-2 hours struggling with her each night.

  2. Sounds like this works wonderful in a family setting. You are a teacher, so I would love to hear what your reward system is for the larger group. I have an after-school program and I would like to use a similar approach to reward children for the amount of time they spend on homework, and possibly other kindnesses. But I know things can get competitive and cause hard feelings, at times when praise can’t be evenly distributed. I appreciate any insights. Thanks, Pam.

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