When your child is trying it is important to show them that you have noticed their efforts. You can do this through praise and reward. This can help them focus on their goal. You are rewarding effort and progress not perfection.
What works as a reward will be different for every family - get everyone involved to think of ideas. Rewards do not have to cost money. They should not be based around unhealthy foods or any other behaviours you are trying to change. A reward is planned ahead with your child.
Rewards helps children to understand that making good choices builds towards good things and makes them feel proud. Sometimes your child might struggle to keep on track but it is important that rewards already earned are never taken away. Help your child understand that it is normal to have mistakes and wobbles. The important thing is to move on and try again.
Rewards can be very simple. Praising, thanking or hugging for positive behaviours are a great place to start. Praise helps to build self-esteem and encourages us to keep going and try our best. Your time and attention is very powerful reward for children and young people.
Remember, rewards are not about bribing or discipline. A bribe often happens in the moment to try and deal with unwanted behaviour.
It is important to help your child see they are getting closer to their goal. This can be as simple as a colourful tick or star chart on the fridge. Your child could mark every time they do 10 minutes exercise – when they have done 30 minutes of exercise, 3 days in a row, they could get their reward.
Other ways children might see they are getting close to a reward are;
- Putting a piece of dried pasta / cotton wool ball in a small jar.
- Make ‘fake’ money that they can ‘save’ to exchange for agreed rewards.
- Make a flower that they can add ‘post-it’ achievement petals to.
- Draw a ladder – move a cut out photo or drawing of your child up the ladder towards their goal. You could have the whole family climbing the ladder!
Rewards allow children to see their progress is valued. Rewards are a way of showing pride in their efforts and making children believe in themselves.
You may already have some ideas and your child will probably enjoy coming up with some too. You could try;
- Time with your child when other family members are not around.
- Read a book together – choose a new one from the library or charity shop.
- Let them choose what’s for dinner and cook it together.
- Choose a film to watch together.
- Put them in charge - let your child be the parent and choose where you go, what you do, eat, watch and even go to bed!
- They choose the music in the car or the house.
- Agree to a sleepover.
- Do arts and crafts together – stickers, glitter paints, slime – get creative as a family.
- Extra freedoms – reward their good decisions by letting them do something you feel they are ready for
- Go for a family bike ride.
- Plan a day out together. You could visit a museum or the beach.
Older children will still enjoy working towards a goal and being rewarded. They may want their efforts recognised in different ways.
- Don’t forget to give them praise – they will like it even if they pretend they don’t!
- Make praise specific ‘it was great that you chose to walk home today instead of getting the bus – you are so much more active recently’.
- They can use electronic devices to measure progress – maybe an app that records activity.
- A family most ‘steps a day’ competition can work well.
Plan together how and when you will celebrate their success.
Who Can Help?
If you are concerned about your child’s weight or eating habits and feel you need support, you can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.
If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.
Alternatively you can go to see your GP to discuss concerns.
To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum CLICK HERE.