3 Ways to Improve Child Behavior Through Using Rewards

How many times have you wondered should I reward my child? Or maybe you have even wondered should I even be rewarding my child’s behavior? These are the ongoing questions we parents face. I have come up with a few basics that I use to determine if rewards are appropriate for my child behavior program or not.

First rule of thumb for an effective child behavior program is to determine what child behaviors you are looking to change. Is it acting  out or is it establishing new behaviors? Let me give you an example of each. Acting out – screaming and yelling in the grocery store; new behavior – a consistent, self–started study time each night.

Once you have determined the child behavior you are working with, you are then able to make a decision on whether to reward or not. For me it is simple, acting out – No! That is just rewarding bad behavior. Setting up new behavior, including acting appropriately in the store, rewards can be a definite plus.

So let’s go over how I implement a reward system:

  1. Determine the reward. You can figure out what reward works best for you and your child by just looking at what they like to do or maybe favorite treats. If you are not sure, ask them. Now know that rewards can be as simple as a pat on the back or elaborate as a new video game. I just feel it should be in line with what the new behavior is.
  2. Determine the length of time. I have been told that a habit takes 30 days to establish. And I use this as one of my measurements for length of time. If it is a long term behavior, like study skills or cleaning their room or behaving in public, I set up a reward for each time the activity occurs up to 1 month and then have a final reward at the end, usually an outing together or something less monetary and more relational.  I remember using this when potty training. If it is a temporary behavior, like a school project or short term chore, I do something more like after they have completed the daily requirement for that activity give them 15 minutes on their video game. I don’t reward at the end as I believe the feeling of accomplishment and resulting self esteem of seeing a job completed is the reward. Of course, they get an “atta boy”!
  3. Open communication. I do not make this process a mystery to my child. I explain how it will work and my expectations when the rewards are finished. This would be something along the lines of “at the end of 30 days of studying every night at 7, you will have added good study habits and perseverance to your tools of becoming a successful adult. This tool will have lifelong rewards.” As for the above acting out example, if you tell them you are going to work on being appropriate in public (always good for the long term!) and set up the rewards before instead of in the middle of the screaming fit, you are letting them know that you reward good behavior and not bad.

Changing or establishing good child behavior is an ongoing and evolving process. This is just one way to help with that. Please note, I do not believe rewarding is bribing as rewarding is a short term process.

Do you have questions on your child behavior program?

For many more tips and techniques to deal with child behavior problem’s, check out The Total Transformation. It’s one of the best child behavior programs I’ve ever seen – it worked for our family, I’m sure it can work for yours!


  1. Your good ideas are good and easy to do.

    I give parents 80 fun rewards to help their kids choose the rewards they like. All of the rewards are non-material. Each of them is an activity to have fun with their parents.

    I agree with you that you must set up rewards before the middle of a screaming fit.

    I also agree that rewards are not bribing because bribing is rewarding someone to do something wrong.

  2. Jean I would love for a copy of those rewards that you recommend to parents.

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