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Moms Talk: How Do You Reward Your Kids?

Our mom's panel considers the best ways to provide incentives for kids.

How does your family reward good behavior?

Faith Mellinger, local business owner and mother of THREE boys (Daniel was born August 23: Congratulations Mellinger family!) writes:

Our boys love candy. Because of this a sweet treat is usually the chosen reward for a job well done or a positive reinforcement for good behavior. However, I have recently noticed that this tends to be their motivation for good behavior as well. After being asked to pick up his toys yesterday, my 4-year-old said, "What do I get?" He wanted a Starburst.

I'm all for positive reinforcement, but our rewards seem to have become more like bribes. At the moment I'm still trying to figure out how we fix this. Good behavior should be expected and the reward a treat, but explaining this concept to a 4 and 2-year-old who have been getting treats and have now come to expect them has become my recent challenge.

Jenny Shepard, full-time working mom of three boys, says:

We have tried a number of strategies to see what works best for us, and more importantly what works best for each child. Our success has been tied to something we call a "Star Chart". If the child gets five stars, they get a prize. We do a variety of prizes--everything from a trip to get frozen yogurt, Wii time, a toy or special time with mom and/or dad. This seems to work well for our boys.

Jaime Townzen, Monrovia Mom columnist, mother to two preschool-aged daughters, responds:

We try not to use food incentives regularly, but I’d be lying to say we never use them. is a regular request from our girls whenever a special treat has been earned, and I do have a few lollipops, Starbursts and other such junk food available to be used as motivators when absolutely necessary. These are usually reserved for the least eager activities, like spending an entire day cleaning, doing dishes and folding laundry.

We also have charts, primarily for tracking purposes, where stickers are placed and after so many accomplishments larger prizes such as a pony ride or a Daddy-date are earned. Overall, though, the recognition by one or both parents that a child has done something well, whatever it is, is usually enough for our daughters to desire repeating the behavior.

So big praises, hugs and congratulations, with encouragement to boast the accomplishment to the other parent, tends to reap the greatest response from our girls.

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