When nagging starts wrecking your mental health, a well-planned reward system becomes your best pal. There is some reason why rewards make the most prominent advice for moms and dads to handle children. Surprisingly, you may use this system for children as young as toddlers.
Yes, toddlers - those dreaded terrible twos who are often considered the most difficult age group in early childhood – also respond positively to these reward systems. But the reward system rules for toddlers and preschoolers differ from the same for school-aged children, tweens, and teens.
The most important rule parents should follow while rewarding children of this age group is keeping the system simple. It’s important that the kid understands why he/she is being rewarded and how much.
The question arises about the applicability of rewards to your toddlers and preschoolers. As impractical as it may sound, you can motivate your toddler to amend behavior without fearing psychological consequences.
Rule of Effective Reward System for Toddlers
What are the basic rules? There are a few pieces of advice for dads and moms that apply to devising an effective reward system for toddlers.
The reward should satisfy the higher-order need of the child. It should NOT be related to the safety, belongingness, or self-esteem needs of the child. You should NOT tie the need for respect and love (or food and shelter) of the child with these rewards. These lower-level needs have to be unconditionally met before you embark on rewarding for their growth and learning.
- There should be maximum one behavior under scrutiny under this system.
- The reward should be visual, auditory, and/or sensory.
- The reward should immediately follow the behavior so the child can see the connection between behavior and reward.
- Visual rewards are better because they tend to remain available even after the compliment is over. But offer different options for different behaviors.
- Keep it fun. Don’t blame or shame when the child fails to achieve the reward.
- Explain the desired behavior and its reward in advance.
- Remind them why you are rewarding them once they have earned it.
- Rewards don’t have to be expensive and complex. Keep them simple, fun, and memorable.
Few Ideas for Rewarding Toddlers
Let’s see a few ideas for rewarding toddler:
- Give them stickers. Give them something to show off.
- Draw a star on their hand. Again, it’s a great cue to show off.
- Do a celebration dance. They will learn to celebrate their success.
- Say hurrah! They will feel seen.
- Praise them. This will let them know what you appreciate about them. Be specific.
- Ask them to join you to do dishes. They will gain confidence. Great! So, they have climbed the responsibility ladder.
- Cuddle. Ingrain the feeling of self-love.
- Write their name on the door. Give them something to brag about.
- Make them kid of the day. Give them an extra reason to be proud of themselves.
- Make them kid of the hour. Boost their self-esteem.
- Give them a candy (keep the healthier options handy!). There is no better option on this list but the short-term focus of this reward may deter parents from using this option more often.
- Color together. Gift them the gift of your presence.
- Let them color. Encourage them to celebrate themselves.
- Go to the backyard picnic. Keep it simple. Help them realize the amusement in experiences while also giving them a sense of celebration.
- Let them put toppings on their pizza. Independence is their utmost desire.
- Let them butter the toast. Again, independence.
- Go on a walk. Again, your best gift to them is the gift of your presence.
- Let them choose a dessert that night. Give them autonomy. They have earned it.
- Make their favorite milkshake for them. Autonomy and taste. Together.
- Babysit their cuddly. Look at the world from their eyes.
- Give them a small allowance. They will a sense of ownership and financial freedom.
- Tell them more about the behavior they have just shown. Tell them a story. They may feel more motivated to keep up with the behavior. If nothing else, they will feel respected by you as an equal.
- Tell a friend. You can choose your friend or your family members to share your toddler’s recent accomplishments. Such compliments in front of others also teach children to appreciate themselves in front of the world.
- Dress them as a superhero for the day. There is no better way to be a superhero than to be a superhero.
- Let them choose their bedtime story. They earned this autonomy.
- Tell them how their behavior helped you/ their siblings/ other caregivers. Let them see the consequences of their behavior when such connections are easy to understand.
- Let them choose their snack (from a few options).
- Let them paint the sidewalk. It’s fun and empowering and shows that the child earned it.
- Allow them to choose their outfit. Let them do it even if it’s hilarious. No comments on their dressing skills.
Rewards make an important tool to enhance learning and growth among children. Toddlers, for example, learn to change their behavior when they receive positive reinforcement for healthy behavior.
Stickers make just one example of the reward you can give to your toddler. Others include giving your time, attention, and little more autonomy using various visual and auditory cues.