Reward Your Kids for a Job Well Done . . . With Something Other Than Food!


Reward your kids for a job well done . . .

With something other than food!

So many of my clients say that their bad habits with eating started when they were young.  Their parents started with food as a reward for all activities that were well done. Getting a good report card at school meant a trip to the ice cream parlor. Playing well in a football game meant a special meal out. Finishing a project resulted in fresh donuts. Very quickly, an unhealthy habit with food started. 

This habit is easy for me to fall into also. I want to reward my kids when they do well, and many times it is so simple just to grab a quick treat to do so, but this isn’t always the best thing for them. A few weeks ago, a friend asked me to write on this subject and consider some other ways to reward our kids when they do well with something other than food. So here are four ways you can implement a reward system without using food:

Reward #1: Stickers!

This really works well for little ones that are 1-3 years old. If yours are still little—use this one as long as possible! If yours are older than that, well, stickers just aren’t too much of a motivator anymore. I have had to come up with more creative solutions as my kids get older.

Reward #2: Small toys or activity books

Reward Your Kids for a Job Well Done . . . With Something Other Than Food!I like to match this one with the activity we are doing. For example, when we go out to a restaurant to eat, the children are expected to behave well. We encourage this by bringing along quiet activities they enjoy. My son loves word finds, so his reward for sitting well in a restaurant might be a new word find book for our next outing. Other ideas for toys are bubbles, family games, play dough, small lego sets, or new crayons.

Reward #3: 30-60 minutes of extra screen time

This reward means you need to establish a “normal amount” of screen time. Doctors recommend no more than 2 hours per day of TOTAL screen time. This means tablets, TV, computers, or phones. Our “normal” is 30 minutes. If my kids want more than that 30 minutes, they have to earn it at our house. If Claire decides she wants to help with dinner, I may offer her 30 minutes of extra show time to reward her for helping me.

Reward #4: Special Activities

This idea often takes a little planning and potentially making a chart.  You probably can’t do something special every day for good behavior as there just isn’t enough time in the day!  And . . . if you did something special every day, then it wouldn’t be special anymore, would it?  For this one, I recommend making a simple chart for your kids. I like to do mine on the computer, then when you need another, you can just print it again! Below is a sample of what I use. 

Behavior Chart

The chart provides structure so that at the end of the week, you can tally up their “good behavior” moments and make a rule. For example, if you have at least 21 good behavior moments at the end of the week (three per day), we get to go play mini-golf on Saturday.  Of course, you will decide how many moments are appropriate for your child, and you will fill in the blank with your child’s preferred activity. Joshua is seven now, so I expect more “good behavior” moments than when he was younger. I also give extra points for when I don’t have to ask and when he does things with a happy heart. Special activities can include bike rides, a trip to the park, mini-golf, going to or renting a movie, or a special hike.

I hope these non-food reward ideas help you encourage your little ones in ways that can help keep them happy and healthy for a long time! 

Originally published May 2018.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.


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