You Discuss: Are Reward Systems Bad Ideas?

We are having a fun discussion on a rewards program that I have decided to start with my son. You can read our story here and our great day yesterday.

I did get some comments that I thought would be fun to discuss. Trust me, that if you do not agree with implementing a rewards system in your home that I completely respect that. After all, this is our first attempt trying something like this. What I had been doing was not working so that is why we are making these efforts.

Here were some of the questions that people had:

I had a question that maybe other commenters can help with. Does there come a time where the tangible rewards no longer matter so much and you phase out the charts, etc.? I’m thinking it may take a certain maturity level which would vary widely, I’m sure, but I just wasn’t sure if once you start this system you’ll be following it for years? Thanks!

This sounds wonderful and a lot of fun even. But I’m hesitant to try it for 3 reasons so I would LOVE to see more people post how this works out for them.

1) What do you do when tickets aren’t enough incentive? Those days compliance just isn’t happening? I’d still have to build a whole lot of “just in case” time into our routine?

2) Would this undo the things my son does just because he knows its right to do and make him start thinking there should be a reward for every little thing? When I was having a back problem it was really painful to buckle ds into his booster seat so I bribed him with a toy he’d been wanting (a pokemon ball) – “if you buckle yourself into the car every trip for a week you can have it.” A plan born of desperation when I realized I couldn’t lean over and pull the buckle across him when I needed to be somewhere and my back was spazzing and I knew he could but was being difficult. When it came time to go pick it out he wanted two. I told him no but he could figure out a way to earn the other one and all of a sudden he wanted to earn it simply by doing things he’s been doing “right” all along. So I set another challenge – tying his shoes. For this I pick behaviors/skills I’m pretty sure he is totally capable of but being stubborn about. So when the week of belt-buckling was over and he tried to regress it was “Nu-uh, no way mister, I KNOW you can do it.”

3) Is there burn-out with this? My son had a chore chart to earn some things he was pestering me for. It lasted about a week and then he didn’t want the things anymore. And when we were taking away toys because he wouldn’t pick them up he could earn them back by having a no-timeout day at school but then he wised up, quit losing the toys by cleaning up always but school is still if-y. He even can earn $ for helpful things (beyond things he should be doing for himself anyway) but he just doesn’t care about some of that stuff so I find myself having to constantly reinvent praises, consequences, etc. so I’ve gotten to the point I seem severe because I just don’t want to deal with it anymore. I think maybe thats why I like this plan – easy to update and adapt and keep “interesting”?

I don’t like where we are though so I’m willing to give anything a try. So I’ll be watching this one!

So what happens when he gets older and is simply doing what he is supposed to, and doesn’t get a reward? Should doing those things that are basic daily living activities come with any reward other than that which the activity itself gives? Life deals positive and negative reinforcements, whether we like it or not. Shouldn’t the discipline of our children be similar? The idea of making the good and bad consequences known for a task seems to make much more sense for me. Where there is no risk, there is no reward.

My Answer:
I just want to begin by stating that this program and techniques were backed after years and years of research and come straight from the 2008 president of the American Psychological Association and head of the Yale Parenting Center.

This system is focusing on a defiant child who does not want to cooperate in the home. It is meant to reinforce positive behavior in your child.

Our children will all one day have to go out in the real world and get a job. When my son goes to his job, he will be paid for his hard work. If he doesn’t go to work, he will lose money and not be able to buy the things he wants. This is the same with this ticket program and will teach him that he will be rewarded for the good things he does, not only with the tickets which will earn him the right to gain a privilege in the home, but also that he will be praised and recognized for the good stuff he is doing. It is a form of positive parenting and I think there is nothing wrong with wanting to be a positive mommy. What I was doing was not working for me.

If the idea of “you do what you are supposed to” works for people, I am all for that! We are talking about parenting a five year old child who isn’t doing anything he is supposed to and can become volatile at times when he is forced to do things. I don’t intend to give him tickets when he is a teenager, but I think a ticket or reward system is ideal for giving our children the building blocks they need to learn how to behave. My hope is that through a program like this (again with years of research backed on it) that my child will grow up into a successful young man who was raised in a positive environment. Who can fault a family for that?

And what seem daily living activities to us (for example, going to school) are difficult for my son and I am teaching him a positive reward for doing the things he doesn’t like or does not want to do. We are teaching him how rewarding it can be to do what we are supposed to!

I would definitely recommend checking out the book, if you are truly interested, because it explains it a lot better than I ever could!

I also want to add that the book does have chapters devoted towards negative behavior and how to deal that. For our age range, it is a time-out where they get no attention at all. Another negative consequence is not getting any tickets or attention for doing bad things.

Published March 28, 2008 by:

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of You can read all about her here.

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