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!