Utilizing Rewards in Parenting

Utilizing rewards in parenting can feel confusing as there are so many different opinions and options.

Utilizing Rewards in Parenting

I’ve worked with children for almost twenty years. Starting back (way back!) in high school up until now as a mental health therapist.

One of the most difficult questions I receive from parents is wanting me to give them blanket advice. The problem is no parenting advice is one sizes fits all. Each child is different. And each family dynamic needs tailored tips.

Yes, there are definitely some parent education topics that I believe apply to all parents. For example understanding emotions and how emotions drive behaviors.

But an area that can be particularly muddy is the use of rewards versus consequences in parenting.

I will often get the question, “Should I use rewards or consequences.” My answer usually is “Yes.”

Both are important. Both are necessary. And different situations may warrant different approaches. But more importantly, you have to understand your child and their temperament.


Consequences seem to be a bit more intuitive on when to use. A child behaved in a manner that is opposite of what you, another authority figure, and/or the law deemed appropriate. Thereby a consequence results.

When using consequence it is important that they are natural and logical consequences for the negative behavior and situation. I wrote a full article on natural consequences that you can read here.


Rewards, however, are not as intuitive. And they are not as easy to provide blanket answers.

It’s also important to remember that praise is a form of a reward. So rewards don’t always have to be a physical, tangible item. They can be incredibly basic.

But even with that in mind, some parents are completely against the use of rewards. Stating, “My child should just do what they are told without needing a reward.”

My answer to that is yes and no.

First, there are very few things as an adult we do without rewards. We just may not realize it. When we work we get paid. That one is clearly tangible. But so many others are internal rewards. When my house is clean my emotional well-being is more calm. That is a reward and motivator to me.

We need to meet our kids where they are and work towards getting them to where we want them to be. In order to do that we need to understand the differences in our children and their temperaments.

Some kids may not need formal reward systems.

However, children who struggle with anxiety or who are more strong willed may benefit from a system. Some kids also do better with the reward prior to completion of the task – like a dangling carrot. Other children need the reward immediately following completion of the task so it reminds them of the benefit. As the child matures, the reward may be able to be extended.

Ultimately, the desire is for rewards to be more internal and self generated rewards.

Examples of Reward Systems

It’s also important to note that children have a tendency to become easily bored. I will have parents tell me that the reward system worked great for a couple of weeks and then it no longer seemed to have the same result. That doesn’t mean that rewards don’t or won’t work for the child. It just might mean that they need a rotation of rewards.

By rotating motivation or reward systems they will continually have new incentives.

Sticker charts– for following directions or completing chores your child will receive a sticker. At the end of the night the stickers can get added up for rewards: play a game with parents, 15-min later bedtime, an extra bedtime story, etc.

Game pieces– have a large “game board” posted on a wall. Each positive day the child gets a game piece to tape to the board. Once they get to the finish line they get something special like.

Jigsaw Puzzle – Take a picture of the end reward. Blow up the picture and print it out. Cut it up into puzzle piece shapes. Each positive day the child gets a puzzle piece. Once the puzzle is complete they get that reward. (I’ve also seen this done on a much larger scale for a big family vacation.)

Penny jar- Your child gets a penny for completing tasks or following rules. Parents will have a designated chart for “prizes” to buy with the pennies that the child can “cash in” at anytime but better prizes will cost more.

Point cards- Your child earns points for positive behaviors and negative points for inappropriate behaviors. At the end of the day the child totals up to see what privileges they have access to. The child also can total up twice a day if the rewards need to be more immediate.

Banker- Utilized the same way as point cards only with toy money that the cashes in at the end of the day.

I pray that this post provides relief that there is no one “right way” to utilize rewards. Each child and family dynamic is different.

God bless!


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About Melissa

Melissa is a Christian mental health therapist, wife and mommy of two. She works with children, teens, adults, and couples to better manage their distress and hopefully become closer to God in the process.

20 comments on “Utilizing Rewards in Parenting

    • Yes, it’s definitely okay and even good to swap things. I know I would be incredibly bored with the same reward! I’m glad the post was beneficial. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. God bless!

    • I bet that’s difficult at times! But it’s a great opportunity to get to know and understand each child better. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your experience! God bless!

  1. Some great advice here. When my kids got to be teenagers, I listed out their chores on the fridge. That way I didn’t have to nag and they didn’t feel that old teenage irritation at authority.

    • That’s a great process. It increases the responsibility for your children and it decrease your engagement in the process. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your tips. God bless!

  2. I LOVE THIS SO MUCH!! And I don’t tweet, but I love the tweet quote!!!!!!!! Such amazing wisdom here!! and the links that you provided……….. I remember those articles, and ………. I can hardly wait to get THE BOOK in my hands. Melissa, I will buy extra, to have on hand to give away !!!!!!!! You are a blessing times a million (love, heart, smiley face…)

    • Ha! Yes sometimes dangling a carrot (or a chocolate bar) is enough motivation to give the extra umph! Thank you for stopping by and sharing your example. God bless!

    • Yes, it’s funny how we don’t tend to think in those terms as an adult. But it does help us to understand the benefit and motivation to use rewards for our kids. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. God bless!

  3. “We need to meet our kids where they are and work towards getting them to where we want them to be.” Yes, yes, yes! I’m a mother of three kids and we are learning to treat each one as an individual. They all require something more or less or not at all. It’s definitely a learning process but thankfully God is imparting His wisdom to helps us along the way. Great read!

    • Thank you Christina! Yes, each child is different and is going to require different approaches and interactions. We can’t try to make them all cookie cutter. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. God bless!

  4. Great advice! My girls are grown now. We used to use the chart system and they were the ones to check what they completed. I wish I had thought of alternating back then. But what we had in place seemed to work lol. Thank you for all your wisdom filled posts! ❤

    • No need to change things if it continues to work, but I know a lot of kids tend to need a change up every once in a while! Thank you for stopping by Donna and sharing your thoughts. God bless!

  5. Great advice, Melissa! I love how you point out that it’s unique to the child. We have definitely learned this with our two, very different, boys. I see how one has immense confidence and needs different things for completing a task. Whereas, our other needs words of affirmation and for us to be happy with him. Blanketing our parenting would create two confused and possibly resentful adults. Thank you for your insight! <3

    • I also have two quite different children! One is more of a people-pleaser and the other is more confident and competitive. They need very different things. As parents our role is to lead them in the ways they need to go. Thank you for reading and sharing your experiences. God bless!

  6. GREAT ideas Melissa! I run women’s workshops and this is often a topic they want to discuss. I reiterate your point that even as adults, there’s very little (if anything) that we do without some sort of psychological, emotional, connection-related, etc. reward. This is a great article and I’m happy to be visiting from Life of Faith today 🙂 Nice to “meet” you!

    • Thank you Meg! It’s always fun to “meet” new bloggers through the linkups. Your workshops sound great and much needed. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and experiences. God bless!

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