These can all be really effective forms of helping our kids make the right decisions around behaviour, or to help encourage taking a leap into the unknown or scary, but they only work if it’s the RIGHT incentive, and if it’s added at the RIGHT time.
And that depends on your child.
Some children don’t really seek out material things as things that they ACTUALLY want. They’ll happily say “Yes” to it if it’s offered, but it’s not necessarily going to help a change – it’s about how they feel about things internally.
Other children will be motivated by the opportunity to make 5 cents, but then they tend to start asking for greater and greater rewards as they become older and more savvy – it’s about what’s in it for them.
And neither of these things really helps with lasting change.
True incentives have to plug into what actually motivates your child, and what they are passionate about, and you can’t play games with these motivations – you have to be ‘real’ and ‘honest’ and stick to the plan. If the kids get offered something that they WANT and then the whole deal falls through due to something else, or a change in mood, they will stop being ‘honest’ about what they want, and then you’ll find it harder to get them on board in the future.
You also can’t overdo the ‘treating’ thing, because it loses its appeal and effectiveness. If you use treats everyday to get your child onboard, then they will quickly work out that it doesn’t really matter, because you’ll offer it again the next day.
The best way to use incentives is when you are helping your child learn understanding about behaviour, living with others, safety stuff, and developing areas of their personality that are a weakness for them. And you offer a pretty big incentive that caters to their passions and strengths to help move them from through the process.
The other key is to then not have any expectation of their success or failure of this in a set time frame. If you can do this, then you’ll take your emotion out of the game, and it has a greater chance of success. If you stay highly invested and want something to happen fast, then you’ll most likely cause the opposite to happen, and you may end up having to give in anyway.
This often happens with kids and phones, as parents take the phones off their teenagers wanting them to behave, or talk in a positive way, but then the parent really wants them to take the phone with them if they leave the house, so it’s a win-win for the teenager, who just has to wait their parents out, knowing that they’ll cave in so that they will be safe out and about, and contactable.
So think carefully about what your incentive or motive will be, and check in with yourself, if it really matters if your child succeeds at it today, or tomorrow, or if it takes two or three weeks.
Some people believe that punishment, and putting up restrictions and restraints around teenagers will help them change quicker, but in my experience I’ve found that this often looks like resentment, and the teenagers become more sneaky in order to get around the rules.
Incentives together with some restrictions can be the best option, but it’s best to start with the incentive, and then start putting a little restriction on bit by bit, to help move them along. It’s a little like the ‘carrot and the stick’.
At the end of the day though – NOT every problem can be resolved like this, and throughout the whole process of incentives and restrictions, “communication” should be kept at a really high level.
At the core of it – COMMUNICATION is the real key – and the way to understand every problem that comes up in your home.
So even when you feel like you are struggling with figuring it out, and trying to work out solutions and trying to change behaviours, sometimes it really does only take explaining the whole thing to your child, and explaining the dilemmas you are having, and EVEN ASKING THEM what they think would be the right thing to do.
Just because that doesn’t FEEL like the way you should do it, doesn’t mean that it’s wrong, and actually it’s about what works –
You can ABSOLUTELY be the parent that you want to be, and sometimes that means asking your child what they think you should do…