Reward Systems for Tweens & Teens


Tuesday Tips for Parents – Rewarding Tweens & Teens

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Reward Systems for Tweens

Tweens can benefit from more complicated systems with bigger rewards. But remember, reward systems do not necessarily have to cost money. Screen time or a later bedtime on the weekends can be big motivators.

Praise  While you shouldn't reserve praise for giant achievements, you can definitely use words of encouragement as an incentive. When your child knows you're paying attention to his effort, he'll be motivated to keep up the good work. So catch your child being good and praise her efforts often.

Tangible Rewards  There are times when praise isn’t enough and kids need a little extra incentive. A treasure box filled with items from the dollar store can go a long way toward keeping kids on track. Let your child choose a reward at the end of the day if he's met his goals.  Or, consider loaning something to your child. If he loves borrowing your hat or he likes using your office chair, let him use it if he's earned it. 

Later bedtime  Although some parents are hesitant to allow kids to stay up later, allowing your child to stay up an extra 15 minutes isn't likely to make him sleep deprived.  And a later bedtime can be a big motivator for kids.

Younger kids will often feel like a “big kid” and it can be a great incentive if they are able to stay up later than their siblings. If you have a child who has difficulty sleeping though, choose a different incentive or only offer it on nights when she can sleep in a little longer the next day.

Special Activities  Choose a special activity that your child will enjoy and use it as a reward. Playing a board game together, going to the park, or an extra bedtime story are just a few special activities that your child might want to earn. Look for free community events and utilize resources like your local library which often have special events.

Extra Electronics Time  Although it's important to ensure your child's electronics use is limited, you can make time on digital devices a reward. Allow up to two hours of screen time per night. But make sure your child earns every minute of it.

            You  can offer screen time rewards in 15 minute chunks. So if your child follows the rules before school, he might earn 15 minutes of screen time. If he has a good day at s              school, he might earn 15 more minutes. 

            You may want to pick a specific behavior to address, like respectful words or gentle touches. If your child exhibits those behaviors during the specified times, he could earn               screen time. 

Make a Craft Together  Most kids love to get creative and messy. And often, you can create things with regular household items. Paper bags make great puppets. Cotton balls and glue can lead to endless creations. Build a model, make some jewelry, or get out the finger paint as a reward for good behavior.

               Coupons  Coupons can be a great way to reward kids. For example, kids love to earn coupons that say things such as “get out of having to do one chore” or “get to stay up                 15 minutes later. Allow your child to spend his coupons whenever he wants.

Social activities  Allow kids to earn extra social opportunities such as inviting a friend over or having a sleep over. Other free rewards can include inviting a friend to the park or going to a community activity.

Food Rewards  Although it’s not a good idea to offer junk food as an incentive, there are some ways to incorporate food into a reward system. For example, allow your child to choose what’s for dinner if or let her earn an indoor picnic.

            Tweens may feel too old for “stickers” so you can use a system where they earn check marks or tokens.   A Token Economy System allows them to earn tokens throughout                 the day that can be exchanged for reward items. For example, two tokens may be equivalent to thirty minutes of television.  Be certain to provide a menu of token items.

Reward Systems for Teenagers

Teenagers will outgrow formal reward charts and systems. However, this doesn’t mean you have to get rid of reward systems altogether. Create a behavior management contract to link privileges to a specific behavior.

A behavior contract can help you feel more at ease, whether your child wants her first cell phone or she wants to stay home alone for the first time. It will ensure your child knows exactly what she needs to do to earn another privilege (or keep the current ones). It gives you a structure in which to spell out what your child needs to do to be safe physically and psychologically in this new activity.

Reasons to Develop a Behavior Contract  A behavior contract can be a great way to reinforce the life skills that you as a parent are modeling everyday. After all, in real life, you need to show you are ready to take on more responsibility before you are entrusted with it. If you ask your boss for a promotion but already aren’t handling the work you’ve got, it’s not likely you’ll be promoted.

             A behavior contract also can reinforce to kids that privileges need to be earned. Just because they turn a year older, doesn’t mean they are mature enough to handle new                      responsibilities.  Instead, they need to show they have the responsbility you would expect.  

How to Develop a Behavior Contract  Talk to your child about the privileges she'd like to earn. Ask questions like, “I know you think you are ready to begin driving. How can you show me that you are going to be responsible enough to drive a car?” Then, work together to develop a plan that will help your child show she is responsible enough to handle more freedom.

            Get your child involved in developing the contract but stay in control of the process. For example, don’t allow your child to convince you that he should only have to do his             homework every other day to show he’s responsible. Instead, hear what your child has to say but make it clear that you have the final word.

           To ensure that there isn't any confusion over the terms of the contract, put everything in writing. You can even create an online behavior management contract that                             establishes an end date and gives your child reminders along the way.

           Discuss the positive consequences of meeting the terms of the contract, such as, "You'll be allowed to stay home alone." Discuss the negative consequences as well by                       saying  something such as, "You won't be allowed to have your electronics if you violate the contract."

            Leave it up to your child to make good choices. Don’t bend the rules or offer extra chances, or you’ll be defeating the purpose of the contract.

               Avoid nagging or trying to convince your child to meet the terms of the contract. If your child isn’t able to follow the terms, he’s showing you he’s not ready for extra                        responsibilities or privileges yet.

Examples of Behavior Contracts

  • An 8-year-old wants to get a pet fish. Her parents establish a behavior contract that says when she shows responsibility with completing her chores every day for two weeks without being told, she can earn a goldfish. Her responsibilities will be to feed the fish and with some help from an adult, clean the tank.
  • 16year-old wants a cell phone. His parents develop a behavior contract that says he can earn a prepaid phone once he earns enough money to purchase the phone along with minutes for one month. He will need to complete extra chores each week to earn the money. It will be his responsibility to pay for his own minutes on an ongoing basis.
  • 12-year-old petitions to stay up 30 minutes later at night. His mother creates a behavior contract that says that when he is able to get himself up for school independently and be ready for the bus on-time every day for two weeks he will be allowed to stay up an extra 30 minutes two times a week. He can pick which two nights but will need to show that he can still get himself up on time each day to keep the privilege.
  • 13-year-old wants to have his own social media account. His parents develop a behavior contract that says he can earn the privilege of having an account when he can show more self-discpline with his electronics. He will be given two hours per day to use his electronics and if he stops using his electronics when his time is up without reminders consistently for two weeks, he can earn a social media account. He will need to continue to show that he can stick to the time limit or he will lose his privileges.
  • 16-year-old asks for a later curfew. A behavior management contract is created that says she can have a one-hour later curfew on Friday nights if she shows she can do her homework on time every day, get her chores done and follow all of the house hold rules for two weeks.
 Choose up to three behaviors to address at a time. Pick at least one behavior that your child already does fairly well. This can help your child feel successful, which is key to keeping a tween motivated.Instead, they need to show you they can handle more privileges by showing responsibility for what they have already




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