The Power of Reward Systems
Psst…hey you. Yeah, you! The one who looks frazzled and, I'm guessing, wishes you were in Jamaica with nothing but a trashy novel on your to-do list.
You have a good kid. Sure, sometimes they forget to turn in their homework, tell a lie, act out in school, or have a meltdown at home. They're still a good kid. And Reward systems can help you remember that and help them know that, too.
Reward systems are not about ignoring bad behavior. They are about recognizing and celebrating positive, healthy behavior. How can you make sure the system you put into place does this effectively and encourages your child to be the good kid you know they are?
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3 Steps to Better Behavior!
Really, is it that easy? Yes, and no! In theory, there are simple steps to create a reward system that works. In practice, it's a little trickier. You have to contend with false starts and mistakes. But practice makes perfect – or at least, it makes good enough! And good enough can do wonders for a family struggling with behavior challenges.
So here are your 3 simple-enough steps:
1. Identify the behavior you want to change.
Maybe it's your kid's inability to get ready for school and to the bus stop on time. Maybe it's the struggle at bedtime. Maybe it's the constant sassing. Maybe it's a million other things – but pick one! Once you have a handle on that behavior, you can move on to others. To keep your kid – and yourself – from becoming overwhelmed or defeated, focus on one at a time.
2. Identify your child's motivators.
The ADHD brain will not do anything unless it is genuinely interested or motivated. So what's the carrot that's going to motivate your kid? Is it an extra half-hour of screen time if they make it to the bus on time? Is it an extra 15 minutes of story time before bed if they put away their toys? Or a chance to have a favorite dessert when they earn three stickers (or checkmarks) for talking respectfully at dinnertime?
3. Start a feedback loop.
In your system, make sure that you have a way to measure progress or determine whether your child is engaging in the desired behavior. If, for instance, you want them to brush their teeth every night, how are you going to ensure they do it? And when they start to do it consistently, what's the next step? How can you move forward with this behavior? Maybe you move from doing it for them to watching them. Finally, you send them up to do it themselves, confident that they can and will. (Yes, you might test the toothbrush at first to see if its wet, but they don't have to know that!)
Life is complicated enough. Reward systems work best when they're simple. So, what behavior do you want to change? What's going to make them want to change? And how are you going to know if they are making the change? That's it, in a nutshell. Creating a reward system doesn't have to – and shouldn't – be more complex than that.