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Positive Reinforcement Through Rewards

Some children need more than recognition and praise for good behavior. Sometimes, rewards can help. This is especially true once you have clearly defined the specific, positive behavior goals you expect from your child.

Consider these tips to help reinforce behavior goals for your child:

  • Make a chart that specifies the behavior you want to see in your child. Include the time of day it is expected. The calendar should cover an entire week or, for some behavior, a longer period. Set it up so that the activ­ity or goal can be rated each day. Decide how many points will be given each time your child shows the positive behavior. In a summary column, total up the points. (Tokens, such as paper stars pasted on the calendar, tend to work better for early school-age chil­dren; points and contract systems work better for older chil­dren.)

    Consider giving small rewards for a preset amount of points at the end of each day or week. Reserve larger rewards reserved for a longer period of time or a greater number of points. Keep this behavior chart in a easy-to-see spot so it can serve as a source of pride and positive reinforcement for your child.

  • Make a list of the rewards your child will receive for a partic­ular number of points. Rewards should be meaningful to your child, and they should participate actively in their selection. Be very clear about how many points or days or weeks of the positive behavior it takes to earn a reward.

  • Keep close daily track of your child's progress. You can help keep their enthusiasm up by reinforcing be­havior as often as possible.

  • Use the chart should as a measure of success. Avoid penalties and demerits. These can be humiliating or discourage your child from even trying. You may consider other forms of mild consequences, such as time-outs.

  • Gradually phase out this program as your child internal­izes their behavior. Usually, you can tell they've reached this point when they lose interest or forget to ask for their points.

More information

Last Updated
Adapted from Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12, 3rd edition (Copyright © 2018 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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