8 Reward System Tips and Tricks
In our last post, we introduced at-home reward systems you can use to help your child become more responsible and independent. Today, we are going to give you 8 tips and tricks to help you be successful from the start. As simple as marble jars and sticker charts may seem, there are a few details that can gum up the works. We hope this list will help your marble jar or sticker chart be a positive and successful addition to your family routine.
1. Be generous with rewards on the first few days.
When beginning a sticker chart or marble jar system at home, it is important the child is excited about earning stickers/marbles. Find any excuse to give your child stickers/marbles during the first few days of introducing the new system. Even reward positive behaviors they already do daily. This will reinforce their good habits and get them excited to build new ones. Once the child is motivated by the new rewards, you can gradually raise the standards.
2. Make it visible.
Keep your marble jar and sticker chart somewhere you and your child will see every day. This will remind your child to make that change to their behavior and for you to watch for them doing so. Sticker charts can go on the refrigerator or in a hallway you pass through multiple times a day. Marble jars can go in the family room or kitchen. Just make sure you see it, or you might not use it!
3. Use it every day.
Make sure to check-in with your jar or chart every day. Hopefully, you’ll do this by rewarding your child’s good behavior. If your child hasn’t earned a marble, acknowledge that with them and talk about how they can improve tomorrow. You want to keep the jar or chart on everybody’s minds until that good behavior becomes a habit.
4. Choose the right reward.
Your child is not going to care to earn a marble if the reward is not motivating enough for them. Knowing your child’s love language will help you find a truly motivating reward. If they feel most loved when spending quality time with you, a family day out might be the best reward. If physical touch works best for them, build a family fort and snuggle up while watching a movie.
If you need some more ideas, here’s a great post with 51 reward ideas: https://habyts.com/51-reward-ideas-to-motivate-and-inspire-kids/
5. Make sure the reward is achievable.
Depending on the age of your child, you’ll want them to achieve a small reward within 3-7 days of starting your reward system. This will show them the jar/chart does work and help build that association between behavior and reward. It can be a small toy, the privilege of choosing dinner, a trip to the park, anything to get them exciting to earn more rewards. You might have to remind them throughout the day to make sure they are successful at earning those marbles. At this stage, you’re trying to show them that behavior = marble and enough marbles = reward.
You can easily modify sticker charts to suit those goal achievement needs. Simply cut a large sticker chart smaller or draw a border to mark the reward line. With marble jars, you can buy jars of different sizes or use a rubber band or decoration to mark the number of marbles your child needs to earn. This mark can move higher up the jar as your child ages or the rewards grow larger.
6. Be consistent and immediate in rewarding your child.
In your busy moments, you’re focusing on eating dinner or buying groceries or what other errands you have to run. It can be overwhelming and difficult to be mindful when your child is not redirecting your attention by behaving badly.
Make sure you’re noticing their good behavior and pointing it out immediately. Make the effort to say, “Wow! I just saw you put away your toys. You’re fantastic and have earned a marble!” and immediately get up and add the marble to their jar. If too much time elapses, you might forget to reward them or they might not associate the marble with the exact behavior you’re targeting. If you’re out of the house when marble-earning arises, make that the first thing you do when you come home.
When they’ve earned enough marbles, reward them as quickly as possible. They won’t care to earn more marbles if they are still waiting for that new toy they earned last week. If it’s an activity that has to wait for the weekend, put it on the family schedule with a specific time and date for them to anticipate. If it’s an activity that can’t take place for another month or two, it might not be a good reward choice at this stage. Again, you want the connection of enough marbles = reward to be clear and unyielding.
7. Don’t give marbles when not earned.
Though it is important for your child to be rewarded every few weeks to keep up their motivation, make sure they’ve truly earned that reward. If your target behavior is cleaning their room, don’t give them a marble for finishing their homework even if that’s a wonderful thing. Focus on that one behavior and make sure your child knows they will earn marbles when they do that thing and for no other reason. That connection between behavior = marble needs to be clear.
8. Be positive and encouraging.
These reward systems are all about positive reinforcement. You reinforce wanted behaviors with positive rewards. Your child is not going to be perfect at this, even after they’ve bought into the reward system. They might need reminding to do the behavior at the start. In fact, you’ll probably have to do that to make the first week on the reward system a success. Little by little you’ll have to remind them less if the reward system is working. They should want that reward so much they won’t forget to do the good behavior.
If they are having a tough day and didn’t earn a marble, acknowledge that with them and talk about how they can do better tomorrow. Be their cheerleader as they build new habits and learn to be more independent and responsible.
Let us know if any other challenges pop up with your new or existing reward system. You might need to play around with the target behavior and specific reward. You might need to talk with your child about how they can earn their marbles and stickers. Don’t assume they know exactly what you mean when you say “behave well when we’re out shopping.” Keep on encouraging your child to make these positive changes. With enough mindfulness and practice, your child will become a more responsible and independent part of your family.