The Effects of Providing Rewards on Good Behavior

By Melissa Willets
Why behave if I'm not going to get a reward out of it?
Why behave if I'm not going to get a reward out of it?

It is definitely beneficial to recognize good behavior in your children, as points out. But recognition and rewards are two different things. Giving your kiddo a prize each time he does the right thing can open up a whole new can of worms you may wish you'd kept the lid on.

Because I Said So

Kids should learn how to behave because it is the right thing to do, not because they are hoping to get a toy or treat. After all, rewarding each and every good act sends the wrong message: You should behave because you will get something out of it. On the contrary, as as notes, effective discipline involves modeling the behavior you want to see reflected back. You should also explain what you expect from your child. Enact consequences when he doesn't listen, and react positively when you see behavior you like. Say "Thanks for feeding the dog without me having to ask!"

Behaving for Bites

Rewarding your little one with food or treats when he is a good boy can most certainly backfire. If you are constantly doling out candy each time your cutie picks up after himself, eats all his veggies or stops complaining, he will be stuffed to the gill with goodies. He will also come to expect sweets for simply doing the right thing. As points out, parents should avoid offering treats in exchange for good behavior as much as possible. Instead, use this approach selectively.

Prizes That Pay

You do not have to offer a toy or treat for good behavior but you can offer a reward of a different kind. As notes, it is important to point out when your little one is being good. Reward him with your praise and attention, and with hugs and love. "Wow, you did your homework before I even had to ask!" Indeed, noticing good behavior and reacting with warm, caring regard will go far to foster your child's self-esteem.

Charting a New Course

Sometimes rewarding a child with a prize for good behavior can be effective, however, according to This approach can work especially well with a child who is trying to correct a particular behavior such as talking back. Consider employing a good behavior chart that keeps track of your kiddo's good deeds. Each time your mouthy munchkin responds to you in a nice, polite way, she gets a sticker on her chart and in the process, a little boost in her self-esteem. After a certain number of stickers, she can pick a small reward. "See, you can speak nicely to Mommy!" Still, you should keep the rewards small or even intangible, like special time with Mom or Dad.

About the Author

Melissa Willets has been writing about parenting, pregnancy and "all things mom" since 2009. She has contributed to many websites, including and