Why We Should Stop Using Bribes, Rewards And Praises On Our Child

effective ways to promote positive behavior in kids


Being a parent is never easy and it gets even tougher as your little one begins to have her own thinking and decision. During these stages, trying to get her to do things (especially things which she doesn’t like to do) and wanting her to stop doing things which isn’t appropriate or suitable, is like fighting a WAR in the house! However, there are ways to ‘WIN the BATTLE’ without much struggle, or using unnecessary bribes/rewards or enforcing punishments.


Here are 4 simple but effective ways to ‘WIN the BATTLE’ and have your little one cooperate with you!


1. Descriptive Praises VS Good Job/Well Done


Praises such as ‘Good job!’ and ‘Well done!’ are often given so spontaneously and frequently by parents which resulted in its ineffectiveness on managing the children’s behaviours. As children hear such ‘positive responses’ by their parents too frequently that it became meaningless to them.


Most importantly, praises like these do not specific the behaviours or tasks that the child did well or correctly, and as a result, the child is unsure about what she did that earn her that praise. Thus, the chances of her repeating the same behaviours which you are happy about, will be lesser.


Wait! Does this mean you should stop praising your child? Of course not! Praises that are used in the right way, helps to boost your child’s self-esteem!


Giving descriptive praises that describe the right behaviours or tasks are much more effective. For instance, when your child finished packing up on his own, instead of only saying ‘Good job’ you can say ‘Good job in packing up. I like the way you pick up every single toy on your own!’ This allows your child to know what she did that earn her the recognition, and most likely, she will be motivated to do it again. Most importantly, praises should be used sparingly. Praises should be given when,


1. Encourage behaviours or tasks that are rarely seen and you wish it could be seen more frequently – e.g. Your child stands in line and wait for his turn.


2. Unexpected behaviours – e.g. When your elder child automatically helps her younger sibling without your reminder.


3. Encourage improvement – e.g. Your child finishes his meal faster than the day before.


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2. Giving choices VS ‘I want you to …’


No one likes to be bossed around by people as everyone has their own thinking and perception. Similarly, as your little one grows older and begins to develop her personal set of thoughts, telling her to do this and that will no longer work well like before.


What? Is there a way to communicate to my child?


Yes, there is! Starting from now, let’s throw commands like ‘I want you to’, ‘You must’ and ‘Because I say so!’ into the bin! Offer your child with choices that are acceptable while at the same time allow them to make a decision.


So right now, you want your child to go for her bath but she is currently playing with her favourite toys. What can you do? Well, instead of insisting that she goes and shower now, you can try saying, ‘Jane, do you want to shower now or 5 minutes later?’ On another instance, if you want your picky eater to eat his vegetables, offer him with choices like, ‘Bob, you can choose to have a big spoon or a small spoon of vegetables’, or ‘Will you like cauliflower or broccoli for lunch?’


This requires practice and thinking beforehand as you need to ensure that you are offering the right choices to your child and not ‘forcing’ him to do something. By doing so, you are minimizing the chances for your little one to reject it. Most importantly, by empowering him to make decision for himself, you are providing him with the opportunity to gain a sense of authority, and he will in turn feel more committed to complete the task. When using this strategy, avoid offering too many choices as it will confuse your child, two is just right.


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3. Being Involved VS Being a Bystander


When you are tasked to complete a job all by yourself, don’t you feel less motivated and tend to procrastinate as compared to one which you can do with someone you are comfortable with? Similarly, children do feel lonely doing things all by themselves as they enjoy companionship A LOT!


We all know that it is most challenging to get our child to do things that he dislikes. This is your chance to offer your companionship by being involved in the task with him rather than being a bystander. Your participation will definitely boost his motivation and his perseverance to embark and complete the task! For instance, knowing that your child hates packing up after playing, why not offer to pack up together with him? Of cause you can pack slowly and acknowledge him on how fast he could pack away.


When adopting this strategy, keep in mind that being involved doesn’t mean that you do the task for them! You are doing with her or just being physically presence so that she knows that you will be there to help when she encounter problems. Take the packing up toy scenario as an example, packing up with him doesn’t mean you pack most of the toys for him but to help him to realize that he CAN pack independently. It will be great to verbalize the reasons why you are involved, so that your child doesn’t become overly dependent on you or feel that he is incapable. For example, ‘Melvin, I know you are tired and there are so many toys that need to be packed away. I am helping you today so that you can quickly finish packing and get to rest earlier.’


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4. Intangible Rewards VS Tangible Rewards


There are 2 different types of rewards – Tangible and Intangible.


Tangible rewards provides extrinsic motivation such as food, stickers and presents while


Intangible rewards are those that can’t be seen or touched and it provides intrinsic motivation.


Although both provide motivation for your child, Tangible rewards should be used sparingly if not it will soon lost its effectiveness. On the other hand, Intangible rewards evidence long term effects as it will help your child develop the disposition of being motivated to do something to feel good about herself, rather than to get a recognition or a gift.


Just like the strategy of offering choices, adopting intangible reward system requires you to think before you give and know what will motivate your child best! When your child refuses to go for her shower as she wants to continue playing, instead of offering things like ‘I will let you have ice-cream if you shower’, you can say things like ‘You can continue to play after shower as I know you can shower really fast and clean. So fast that we will even have time to read your favourite story after your play!’


All strategies require time to take effect, hence, do not be discouraged if the strategies you adopt do not work at the moment. Be persistent and consistent! Give your child time to learn as well as to adjust. Well, soon you will be able to see the result.


Written by Yi Jun

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