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Rewards and Praise or Sanctions and Consequences?

Praise is a great reward in itself for children, that’s why it is so good to give them lots - the younger they are - the more you should give. It is teaching them that all the things you are praising are good things. Most parents don’t have time to play all the time with their children, but household chores can be a game and a learning opportunity if you include the child too! Whilst hanging out the washing get the child to hand you the pegs and use it to teach colour or counting. Ask them, “Can you hand me one peg? Can you get me 3 pegs? Can you find a green peg and a blue one? Now can you get me two red pegs. Can you find me 2 green pegs and one white one? How many pegs does that make?” And so on!

Children also love Reward Charts and earning stars, stickers and prizes too. They love to be given jobs to do and being praised for succeeding with those jobs. The rewards don’t have to be big. Sometimes lots of little ones work really well. Younger children should be given more frequent rewards - little and often as they say, whereas with older children you can expect them to do more to earn theirs.

I love using Reward Charts. You can personalise them, using different tasks and goals for each child, appropriate to what you want them to learn. If you have more than one chid in the family, they can earn the same amount of rewards, but the older children will have had to do more to get theirs than the younger child. That will be fair. Children can attain things throughout the day - every day. And they have a fresh start each day where they can accumulate stars and stickers. They can have a goal at the end of the week.

It is great if there are also rewards sections along the bottom of their chart, showing what they can earn when they achieve a certain number of stars or stickers. Involve them in choosing their prizes. It all helps to keep them focussed. But don’t make it so hard so it demoralises them! And make sure that, if they have a bad day, there is some way in which they can either catch up or re earn stars or stickers, so they won’t just give up! Remember - you want them to want to do this. It is not a punishment.

But don’t give in!

Why not give in? Well, it’s setting a precedent and guess what, you’d better not! Because what will happen if you do? Next time your child will work even harder, refuse and complain more, because they know you will eventually give in!

Parents often give into their children because of a fear of not being liked by their child.

Do not think that your children won’t like you. You are the adult. If you take control or expect them to do things that’s ok. That is your job. If you think they won’t like you for doing what you should be doing as a responsible adult, you are wrong. If you are not setting good boundaries or giving good examples, they will end up feeling confused and less secure. This will end up with the child not feeling safe. Maybe not respecting you. Behaving badly. Demanding and expecting. And it will be worse for you in the long run.

How to say NO.

Say it calmly in an assertive, not an aggressive voice, and mean it. You do have the right to say no! You don’t need to give explanations. (Talking and reasoning with children when they are in a heightened mood doesn’t work. It’s a waste of time and effort.) Just say NO. You do not owe them explanations. Once you have said No, move on. Even if they plead!

There is a time and a place for explaining things to children and reasoning with them is a good thing to do, at an age-appropriate level and within the limits of their understanding and capability. But if it isn’t, then it will not be relevant to them. It will just go over their heads and you will have merely wasted your breath. The time for explanations or to reason with a child is not when either you or they are stressed or feeling wound up, so in other words not at the time of the event or in the heat of the moment.

Deal with it later, when all is calm and then you will both be in a better place to listen and learn.

So, in conclusion Rewards and Praise - Sanctions and Consequences, all have their place.

But use them wisely and consistently to reap the benefits.

Belinda Wells

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