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Now, the kid is not quite four years old, but he has this reward system thing DOWN. We started it when he started potty training, but as I was making out the chart for him, I thought, well, if I start doing rewards for #1, #2 is definitely going to want to have rewards too–so–why not just come up with a set of things they can BOTH get stickers for? …Let me just say, it has been a stroke of genius.
Not only can I get them motivated to do a task like picking up toys or clearing their plates by offering stickers, they actually come up with ways they can be better just so they can earn some more (yes, at age 2 and 3)! I’m constantly hearing, “Mommy, I do [insert task here], I get sticker? (#2)” or “I could do [thing], and I could get a sticker! Right, Mommy?? (#1)” It is awesome.
Furthermore… If they’re off track, or having a bad attitude about something, all I usually have to do is mention losing a sticker, and man, if that doesn’t motivate! “No, not lose sticker!! (#2)” Talk about hands-off training.
There are some days that nothing is going to work, but that’s parenthood, and somewhat expected. But I’m telling you, if you can find a set of rewards that work for you and your child, that journey can be a whole lot easier. I’ll show you what we’re doing, and you can adjust it based on your child’s age and both of your needs and interests.
The most important thing when starting a reward system is to have attainable goals. We do one big chart at a time, but intersperse mini goals throughout it, based on each child. For instance, #1 may have to get 30 stickers to reach his next mini goal, while #2 may only need 15–because, for one, #2 isn’t potty training yet, so she gets stickers more slowly–and also, she doesn’t have the patience to keep earning stickers that long before she sees some kind of fruit of her efforts.
Rewards for mini goals don’t need to be something huge, either–I picked up a bunch of various kids’ art supplies (chalk, markers, mini science sets, modeling clay, etc) on clearance not too long ago, and just bring out something new each time they reach a new goal. I think they cost me like $2-3 each.
Having that long-term goal as well though, like Einstein’s Lego Technic Tractor at the end of his reward chart, is important too. It teaches persistence, good work ethic, and of course repetitive good behavior. Plus it gives them something big to work toward that they really want. As they get older you can space out the mini goals more or eliminate them altogether, but making the long-term goal something that’s really appealing (though not necessarily expensive) is what will keep them motivated to do the things you’ve set rewards for. And you don’t have to use stickers on a chart, you can have them fill a jar with pennies, or whatever works for you. The important part is for them to feel like they’re earning something for the good things they do, motivating them to continue.