I try to find rewards that are not toys when I want to show our children that I’m proud of them. Just like science proves that giving our kids an experience is better than a toy, recent studies show that giving toys as rewards may backfire.
In complete transparency, I don’t always succeed at it. When I find a cute toy or I know that our kids have had their eye on something, its hard to not get it & see them light up with joy, but I try to remember that I am essentially teaching them character traits & behavior. I want to teach them to be intrinsically motivated and not wait for the next toy or treat. I also don’t want them to expect a toy for each job well done.
A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that children who receive more material rewards end up being materialistic. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
“Parents don’t want their children to use possessions to define their self-worth or judge others, yet loving and supportive parents can also use material goods to express their love, paving the way for their children to grow up to be more likely than others to admire people with expensive possessions,” said authors Marsha Richins of the University of Missouri and Lan Nguyen Chaplin.
According to TIME.com, “By using possessions to reward—or, on the flip side, punish—children, parents may be setting the stage for long-term overconsumption, the study found. Children raised in households where acts of discipline involved giving or taking away belongings were more likely to continue rewarding and defining themselves with material things. They also grew up to admire people with expensive possessions and judge people based on what they own.
If that doesn’t sound bad enough, materialism in adulthood has also been linked to reduced feelings of well-being, marital problems, and financial difficulties…”
So what can you do? Here’s a great list of Rewards that are not Toys
– Encourage your child to be proud of himself/herself. “Wow- aren’t you proud of yourself? You studied hard and look at what you’ve accomplished. You can do anything with hard work.”
– Display the achievement. If it was a great report card- display it on the wall. A great game- post a picture or the score on the refrigerator.
– Use a cotton ball jar. Whenever your child listens or responds in appropriate way (whatever you are working on), give them a cotton ball to put in their jar. When the jar is full, encourage your child to “do something fun” by picking out an activity to do together (painting rocks, making non-stick slime, etc…)
– Save the rewards for “points” for a fun trip! Tell the kids when you reach so many points as a family, you will get to go on a trip. (Find local places like zoos, new playgrounds…)
– Do a puzzle together. Time together is the key here. Pick one out and work on it together. Yes, you’re buying a puzzle, but your child will see it as a bonding experience because you aren’t “giving” it to them, you are doing it together.
– Make a Dry erase photo book that you print, like this one:
– Use a sticker chart. Every 5 stickers, they get to do something fun, like baking cookies (let them pick some new cookies on Pinterest- our kids LOVE to look through pictures of yummy cookies & pick their favorites to make.)
– Have the reward be a fun outing with mom and/or dad. A bike ride goes far in our house – the kids love it and so do wel!
– Make a list of fun activities your child likes and they get to pick a reward from there. Print it out in fun colors & as they get a reward, let them cross it off of their list. Or, you could print out the list, cut it up and put the pieces of paper into a jar. They pick one for each reward.
– Get fun pajamas when they reach their reward!
– Bonus screen time- this is a favorite of older kids.
– Go to your favorite pet store or animal shelter & look at the animals that need to be adopted.
– Let them stay up 30 minutes later and they can play a game with mom and dad or watch a show (our kids like to find a new show on Netflix that is just “ours” – so when they get a reward, they stay up 30 minutes late to watch the next episode on “our” show. It’s just like a secret to them that it’s only the two of us that watch it.)
– Celebrate by going out to eat as a family (you can find a lot of kids eat free places, too.)
– Go to a fun event or local place (like the library) that is in your hometown.
What about you? What non-toy rewards do you use for your kids? I’d love to hear some more ideas…