How to Create an Effective Reward System for Kids (2023)

Dealing with a child's misbehavior can feel overwhelming at times, especially if you have tried everything you can think of. But the good news is that reward systems can be highly effective at changing a child's behavior. Plus, almost all kids respond favorably to rewards.

So, whether your toddler is biting, your preschooler is throwing tantrums when it's time to leave the park, or your tween keeps forgetting to do their chores, a simple reward system can help them become more responsible for their behavior. Here is what you need to know about setting up an effective reward system based on your child's age.

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What Is a Reward System?

A reward system is an approach to discipline and behavior modification that parents sometimes use to get their kids to replace negative behaviors with positive ones. Instead of disciplining a child for bad behavior, they reward them for positive behavior.

Kids learn to change their behaviors and make better choices through positive reinforcement. Ultimately, when a child receives positive feedback, encouragement, and rewards for making a good choice, they naturally gravitate toward those behaviors again instead of the negative behaviors.

"Reward systems can be helpful to encourage positive, healthy behaviors in children and may increase their self-esteem and self-image," says Anisha Patel-Dunn, DO, a psychiatrist and chief medical officer at LifeStance Health in Scottsdale, Arizona. "Positive reinforcers like praise can also build trust as they help children learn to navigate healthy boundaries and expectations from their parent."

Benefits of Reward Systems

There are a number of benefits to implementing a reward system. Here are just a few things you can expect a reward system to do:

  • Encourage positive, healthy behaviors
  • Increase a child's self-esteem
  • Improve parent-child relationship
  • Encourage responsibility and independence
  • Develop new skills
  • Decrease parent stress levels
  • Allow both parent and child to focus on the positive

Keys to an Effective Reward System

When setting up a reward system, it is important to keep your child's age in mind. You don't want to place expectations on them that are not age-appropriate nor do you want to try to change too much at once—particularly with little kids.

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"Rewards can be beneficial to help children achieve a specific behavior or goal," says Kate Eshleman, PsyD, a pediatric psychologist at Cleveland Clinic Children's."It is a system to increase motivation for something the child may not be interested in or motivated for [themself]. Applying an external reward assists the child in working to complete, achieve, or master this task by making it meaningful to them."

It is also important that the reward is something your child wants, something you can be consistent with, and contains an attainable goal. The best way to ensure that is the case is to involve your child in developing the reward system. Ask them what they consider a good reward and begin there.

"The identified reward has to be something that is meaningful to the child, and thus the child’s engagement in developing the plan is important," says Dr. Eshelman."It likely will not work if the parent identifies the reward without the child’s input.Feedback on earning the reward should be immediate and specific, and often times small approximations to earning the large reward are helpful."

Kate Eshleman, PsyD

It is important for parents to follow through on outlined plans, and thus only agree to rewards that they are willing and able to provide.

— Kate Eshleman, PsyD

For example, if your child wants to earn something specific like a Lego set or a trip for ice cream, it is likely not feasible or appropriate to provide this each time a specific task is completed, explains Dr. Eshleman. So, if the goal is for them to stay in bed all night or their finish homework in the evening, parents can use stickers for younger kids or tokens for older kids. Eventually, with enough tokens or stickers, they can "purchase" the bigger reward.

"It is important for parents to follow through on outlined plans, and thus only agree to rewards that they are willing and able to provide," Dr. Eshleman adds."In order for the system to be effective, [you] must stick to the plan and follow-through, which can take a lot of time and energy."

When deciding what to work on first, Dr. Eshleman recommends picking one or two specific target behaviors. Make sure your child has a good understanding of what is expected and how the reward is achieved so they can understand their progress toward the goal.

Tips for Effective Reward Systems

Brittany Schaffner, a crisis education supervisor for the Behavioral Health Pavilion at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, offers these tips for success.

  • Identify one behavior or task you would like to your child to learn.
  • Set realistic expectations.
  • Be patient as kids learn new skills.
  • Involve your child in choosing the reward.
  • Provide clear direction and guidance.
  • Offer specific praise and do it often.
  • Strive for consistency and follow through on your promises.
(Video) 8 Tips for Creating an Effective Reward System for Children

How to Implement a Reward System

The basics of implementing a reward system include determining the behavior you want your child to work on and coming up with a reward they are excited about. Here are additional tips on how to set up an effective reward system for your child based on their age.

Little Kids

Young kids are very responsive to sticker charts, specific labeled praise (i.e., "I like how fast you got your shoes on and stood by the door"), and positive attention from adults, Dr. Eshleman says.It is important for young kids to frequently receive this type of feedback.

"An example may be creating a sticker chart and each time the young child verbalizes needing to go to the bathroom, they earn a sticker," she says. "These stickers may be turned in for another reward, though the stickers themselves may be enough [at this age]."

It's also important to ensure that the expected behavior or task is achievable and based on the child’s age and ability, Dr. Eshleman adds. Explain the reward system in a way your child will understand and make sure the time frame to receive the award is short. If it takes too long to achieve a reward, your child will get discouraged and lose interest.

Anisha Patel-Dunn, DO

For younger children (under 3 years old), you don’t have to overthink rewards or break the bank buying them a new toy every time they fulfill a request.

— Anisha Patel-Dunn, DO

"For younger children (under 3 years old), you don’t have to overthink rewards or break the bank buying them a new toy every time they fulfill a request," says Dr. Patel-Dunn. "A great reward at this age is extra positive attention such as hugs, kisses, smiles, or praise from parents. Praise can be specific to their behavior to let them know exactly what they did right and why you liked it, for example, 'Great job helping me put all your toys away, you are such a good helper!'"

Behaviors that can work well with a sticker chart include things such as going to the bathroom on time, staying in their own bed at night, picking up their toys when asked, or leaving a fun place like the park without a tantrum. Provide a sticker immediately after you see the desired behavior and offer lots of praise.

Take time to count the stickers they already have and talk about how close they are to the big reward. This type of emphasis on the positive choices as well as the reward, keep your little one engaged and excited to continue making good choices.

(Video) Rewards system for kids | Effective Positive Rewards

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School-Age Kids

As kids age, it is important that the task, the reward, and the time frame age with them, says Dr. Eshelman.School-age children are likely motivated by different things than younger kids, so a sticker chart might have to evolve to a chart with checkmarks or the use of tokens, play money, or "bucks" they can use toward a bigger reward. At this age, kids tend to respond to more tangible rewards.

"For school-aged children, creating some type of visual representation of what behaviors receive rewards can be encouraging, especially when first introducing a reward system," says Dr. Patel-Dunn. "For example, if they get to pick their favorite dinner after five days of helping to clean up the house, giving them a checkmark [or a token] for each day can get them excited about reaching their goal."

Your reward system also should be developmentally appropriate as well as attainable. You don't want to set goals for your child that are impossible for them to achieve.

"Asking for them to do too much or to do things that are too challenging can increase their sense of frustration," explains Dr. Patel-Dunn. "For example, if you’re asking your child to be tidier, start with rewarding them when they make their own bed in the morning, and work up from there."

Kids this age can also handle more complex reward systems, so you can tackle bigger goals or two behaviors at a time if you want.Just make sure your child earns rewards on a regular basis. School-age kids still appreciate daily rewards and praise for their hard work and efforts.

"For a school-aged child, an example of a reward may be that for each evening a child completes [their] homework in entirety without being asked, [they] earn extra screen time," Dr. Eshleman explains."Or they earn a 'buck' [or token] each time they do so in order to save for a desired reward like a new video game, a new book series, or another desired reward."

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Once your child is a tween, they might benefit from more complicated reward systems with bigger rewards or more freedoms. Just note that theserewards don’t have to cost money. Kids this age appreciate more screen time, later bedtimes on the weekends, a new game, or increased freedoms.

There is even some research that a token economy system, which allows them to earn tokens that can be exchanged for reward items, can be effective for kids this age. For example, two tokens may be equivalent to 30 minutes of screen time.

"For tweens, you can mix smaller rewards like an extra hour of TV with larger rewards for longer-term goals," says Dr. Patel-Dunn. "For example, if your tween has been working on improving their grades from C’s to A’s and B’s, you can reward an improvement on report cards with a reward that feels like a bigger deal, like a sleepover with friends."

One of the most difficult things when starting a reward system is staying consistent, says Schaffner. Just as your kids are building skills by developing habits, you also have to get in the habit of being consistent with the reward system.

"Building new habits takes time," she adds. "It is unlikely to happen overnight or in a week. Watch for small wins and changes."

If you have consistently been using a reward system and have not seen a positive change over time, re-evaluate, says Schaffner. Check the following things: Is the reward something my child likes? Is the expectation appropriate? Is the task clear? Is the behavior stated positively? If not, make adjustments and try again.

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A Word From Verywell

No matter their age, most kids enjoy receiving rewards and praise for their efforts. So, if there are some negative behaviors you are hoping to help your child modify, you may want to try implementing a reward system. The key to success, though, is to make sure you involve your child when setting it up.

After all, you want to be sure the rewards you pick are something that will motivate them enough to do the work of changing their behaviors. You also need to make sure you start with a small goal or two and that the goals are attainable. Your child should feel challenged but not to the point of discouragement. With a thoughtful and consistent approach to rewards, you both are likely to feel happy with the results.

How to Create an Effective Reward System for Kids

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How do you create an effective reward system? ›

The main goal behind rewards is to give employees tangible reasons to continue to improve their performance and help the company grow.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you design your reward system:
  1. Get employees involved. ...
  2. Tie rewards to company goals. ...
  3. Be specific and consistent. ...
  4. Reward behaviors. ...
  5. Reward teams.

What is a good reward system for kids? ›

Choose short-term rewards

So it's good to choose short-term rewards that you can give often if your child earns them, like a family bike ride, special time with mum or dad, the chance to stay up later than usual, a movie night, or a new book or small toy.

What makes a reward system successful? ›

Always link rewards to performance.

For rewards to have the most impact on influencing employee performance, they must be directly linked to the desired behavior. Tie praise, recognition, cash rewards, and non-cash rewards to specific results.

What are the five steps in designing a reward system? ›

Here are the preliminary steps in building a solid total rewards design:
  • Develop a management philosophy. ...
  • Identify the business strategy. ...
  • Establish a company culture. ...
  • Define your employee value proposition. ...
  • Create a total rewards strategy.
Nov 2, 2020

What are five rewards examples? ›

Examples of rewards that are this category usually include:
  • Bonus. A bonus is a financial incentive that employees receive in addition to their set salary or wages. ...
  • Profit-sharing. ...
  • Stock options. ...
  • Merit pay. ...
  • Fringe benefits. ...
  • Public recognition. ...
  • Paid leaves. ...
  • Professional development training.
May 2, 2022

What are the elements of a good reward system? ›

Total reward may include some, or all, of the following elements as well as traditional elements of pay and benefits packages:
  • Flexible benefits.
  • Access to professional and personal development.
  • Meaningful work.
  • Freedom and autonomy.
  • Opportunity for promotion.
  • Being treated fairly.
  • Recognition of achievements.
May 18, 2022

Are reward systems effective for kids? ›

Rewards can encourage your child's good behaviors.

The way you respond right after your child's behaviors makes the behavior more or less likely to happen again. Rewards can help get your child to do more of the things you want her to do. Rewards that happen right after a behavior are best.

What's an example of a reward system? ›

For example, an employee can earn a bonus at the end of a pay period on top of their base salary. Employees may also earn other tangible or monetary rewards separate from their paycheck. This can include additional paid time off, company lunches or gift cards.

How do you effectively reward students? ›

Praise Judiciously, But Praise

Extroverts will crave and cherish open and warm praise in front of the class while your introverted students, as well as your shy pupils, often appreciate a subtler and a gentler form of praise, such as a brief mention or simply a “smiley” face along with their “A+” grade.

What is a fair reward system? ›

Table of contents. Recognise contributions, monetary or otherwiseKeep it transparentDon't underplay the achievements of the top sellersDon't forget the average performersPay bonuses quicklyReward teams as well as players.

What are some ideas for rewards for students? ›

Earn a gift certificate to the school store or book fair 23. Earn a pass to the zoo, aquarium, or museum 24. Earn a trophy, plaque, ribbon or certificate 25. Earn an item such as a Frisbee, hula hoop, jump rope, paddleball or sidewalk chalk, which promote physical activity 26.

What are the 6 steps in formulating a total rewards program? ›

How do you create a total rewards strategy?
  • Assess what you already have in place. ...
  • Gather employee feedback. ...
  • Include the leadership. ...
  • Identify your goals and priorities. ...
  • Align the strategy with your values and culture. ...
  • Make total rewards balanced, flexible, inclusive, and fair.

What is the first step in designing a reward system? ›

The first thing to do when creating a reward system is establishing your goals, such as boosting sales, improving customer experience, or enhancing customer relationships. After that, it's crucial to align these goals with employee performance and behaviors.

What are the 6 elements of a total rewards system? ›

“Total Rewards encompasses the elements – compensation, well-being, benefits, recognition and development – that, in concert, lead to optimal organizational performance.

What are the 4 types of rewards program? ›

4 types of loyalty programs and their benefits
  • Tiered loyalty program. Tiered loyalty programs separate benefits into different levels, with more rewards offered to customers in higher program tiers. ...
  • Subscription-based loyalty program. ...
  • Value-based loyalty program. ...
  • Points-based loyalty program.
Aug 19, 2022

What are the 2 types of reward? ›

There are two types of rewards—tangible and intangible. Tangible rewards are money, vacations, and material objects. The best way to use money as a reward is to give a specific amount as a bonus directly related to the performance of a task or the achievement of a goal.

What are 7 rewards? ›

What is 7REWARDS? 7REWARDS and the 7-Eleven app lets customers enjoy savings on exclusive deals, earn points with every qualifying purchase and redeem those points on member rewards like free snacks and drinks, and also find their nearest store.

What is the four basic objective of reward system? ›

Four main objectives exist that can be rewarded. These are employee's results, performance, competence, and skills.

What are the three types of reward? ›

The 3 Key Types Of Rewards
  • Intrinsic rewards: Rewards that are non-tangible but results in higher levels of job satisfaction. ...
  • Extrinsic rewards: Tangible rewards that staff receive upon doing a good job. ...
  • Financial rewards: Positively adding to the overall employees' financial status.
Dec 24, 2020

How do you reward a child without spoiling? ›

Whether your child is a toddler, tween or teen, it's never too early or too late to get the point across with these six moves.
  1. Show them you can have fun on the cheap. ...
  2. Make gratitude a habit. ...
  3. Reward kids with special one-on-one time. ...
  4. Flickr / Jakob Montrasio. ...
  5. Teach kids to pay it forward. ...
  6. Spell out family values.
Jun 30, 2016

Are reward systems effective in schools? ›

A research report by the Department of Education found that, in a study on 'Behaviour Management Systems in Schools Rated Outstanding', 100% of all schools utilised reward systems as a proven method of encouraging positive behaviour.

What are the 2 types of rewards and give each an example? ›

Intrinsic versus Extrinsic Rewards

Some examples are- an impressive job title, career growth, personal achievements, praises, etc. Extrinsic rewards are tangible rewards that employees receive upon doing good work. It includes bonuses, raises, gifts, etc. Intrinsic rewards make employees feel valued in a company.

What are the reward strategies? ›

A total rewards strategy is a system implemented by a business that provides monetary, beneficial and developmental rewards to employees who achieve specific business goals. The strategy combines compensation and benefits with personal growth opportunities inside a motivated work environment.

What is reward system in the classroom setting? ›

What is a class-wide reward system? A class-wide reward system is a system in which students work individually toward personal reinforcers or work together toward group reinforcers. Class-wide reward systems have three parts: (1) target behaviors, (2) token reinforcers, and (3) terminal reinforcers.

How do you motivate students with rewards? ›

32 Ways to Reward and Incentivize College Students 🏆
  1. Nominate students for a campus award 🏆 ...
  2. Award virtual badges 🏅 ...
  3. Allow students to earn points to redeem for items, snacks & activities ⭐ ...
  4. Give recognition in an email blast 📧 ...
  5. Showcase student activity on a leaderboard📊 ...
  6. Offer VIP sporting event tickets 🏟️
Feb 15, 2022

Why do reward systems fail? ›

The problem with most reward systems is that the design of the system itself is rooted in false assumptions about what motivates employees. Today, most company reward systems are designed with yesterday's world in mind and what past employers assumed their employees desired from their jobs.

Why is reward strategy important? ›

Strategic reward management is important because it helps to make employees feel valued for their contributions to the business. By implementing clear company policies for reward management, you make it an equal opportunity for each employee to work for positive rewards.

What is the importance of reward? ›

Rewarding increases employees' motivation. They are ready to produce greater work performance when their employer gives appreciation and rewards. Research shows that appreciation and bonuses positively affect employees' performance at work.

What are the top 5 incentives the school class could use to motivate students? ›

5 Student Incentive Ideas for Academic Achievement
  • Consider intrinsic motivation. It's easy to fixate on the rewards of finishing school work: good grades, teacher and parental pride, and eventually a bright future. ...
  • Think small. ...
  • Offer options. ...
  • Start with loss. ...
  • Act quickly.

What are the 6 steps in formulating a Total rewards program? ›

How do you create a total rewards strategy?
  • Assess what you already have in place. ...
  • Gather employee feedback. ...
  • Include the leadership. ...
  • Identify your goals and priorities. ...
  • Align the strategy with your values and culture. ...
  • Make total rewards balanced, flexible, inclusive, and fair.

What is good reward system? ›

Reward systems are positive consequences that encourage behavior change and include motivators like sticker charts, token economy systems, point systems, or behavior charts. These rewards are used to encourage change in some way.

What are the five features of an effective total rewards program? ›

Five Components of a Total Rewards System

Generally, there are five pillars of a comprehensive rewards system: compensations, benefits, flexibility, performance recognition and career development.

What are the 3 general components of total rewards? ›

Total rewards is the combination of benefits, compensation and rewards that employees receive from their organizations. This can include wages and bonuses as well as recognition, workplace flexibility and career opportunities.

What are the key elements of reward system design? ›

What are the Key Elements of Reward Management? The elements of rewards include programs, practices, elements that define an organization's strategy to attract, motivate, create engagement, loyalty, keeping employees or in other ways retain employees.

How do you implement a reward system in the classroom? ›

How to put a reward system to work
  1. Set class goals. Set class behavior goals that are achievable and measurable. ...
  2. Define how you will use the reward system. This is the key to success. ...
  3. Explain why you gave a reward. ...
  4. Give students a voice. ...
  5. Reward early. ...
  6. Lessen the rewards over time. ...
  7. Give random rewards.
May 18, 2020

What is reward technique? ›

Definition. Reward shaping is a technique inspired by animal training where supplemental rewards are provided to make a problem easier to learn. There is usually an obvious natural reward for any problem.

How do you reward students for good behavior? ›

Group/Class Rewards
  1. Extra recess time.
  2. Dance party in class.
  3. Dress up day - class votes! ( PJs, Hats, etc)
  4. Class game day (kick ball! Board games!)
  5. Class gets to march design flag and hang on school flag pole.
  6. Class gets to visit animal shelter.


1. Behavioral Charts: Successfully helping children behave better
2. Rewards System for Kids 3 to 12 years old. How to Motivate Kids to Do Their Best
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3. Allowance system/Reward Chart System for Kids
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4. EASY REWARD SYSTEM // how we use reward incentives for our children
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6. How to create a reward system for a child of any age!
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