If you are tired of hearing your kids bicker in the backseat, complain constantly and talk back, a reward system can completely change this dynamic. Pediatrician Dr. Sears says that reward systems work because they operate on the pleasure principle -- rewarded behavior continues while unrewarded behavior ceases. By providing an incentive to behave, you can positively reinforce desired behaviors.
Reward charts allow parents to designate certain behaviors that they want their kids to exhibit and document their progress. Kids or parents add stickers to the chart for each period of time of good behavior. Dr. Sears recommends making a chart that shows when kids are getting closer to their goals, such as by marking off days of good behavior or drawing a line for good behavior to connect dots that lead to a goal. Consult with your child and other family members to determine specified behaviors, such as not complaining, getting along with siblings, listening to parents and having good manners. Work together to devise rewards. Some prizes may be monetary, like buying a new toy, but remember that your child covets your time and other privileges, like staying up late, having free time or spending time with a game system or computer. Dr. Sears recommends adjusting the amount of time for a child to receive a reward based on his age. For example, preschoolers should receive daily rewards while older kids should receive weekly rewards.
Token systems consist of giving kids tokens, tickets or chips each time that they exhibit positive behaviors. The token system is effective because it provides immediate positive reinforcement -- kids earn the tokens as soon as they demonstrate a positive behavior. Kids help identify positive behaviors and earn tokens that they later cash in for coveted rewards. Supplement tokens with hugs or other affirmations, such as verbal praise, to motivate positive behaviors.
Various apps are available to help organize kids' rewards. For example, You Rule Chores is an app that lets kids earn coins for each chore or duty that they complete, which they can redeem for rewards that the parent establishes. Parents designate how many coins each chore or duty is worth. Chore Monster combines reward charts and video games. Parents set up scheduled chores with point values and check that these chores are completed when their kids say they are. Kids earn monsters and sign into their own version of the app to view upcoming parent tasks and purchase rewards from their point collection.
Use reward systems sparingly so you do not make your child always seek an extrinsic motivator to behave appropriately. Your reward strategy will quickly crumble if you promise a reward and don't give it, so be consistent and honest.