Rewarding 3-5 Year-Olds for Good Behavior
(P.S. It’s not bribery!)
Bribery is a crime. It happens when someone offers something so enticing, so desirable that saying no just isn’t possible. Ten thousand dollars to lie about someone’s whereabouts. A pony if you tell me where you put my keys. See, it’s not possible to say no, especially when the requested behavior is so easy to do. Bribery is not a policy I condone. So when I tell you to reward your preschooler for good behavior, that’s exactly what I mean—a small token of your appreciation for accomplishing something that’s a little bit hard to do. You know, those things kids are supposed to be doing by themselves every day, but sometimes don’t.
The chore chart is a simple way to create a positive interaction. After all, those preschoolers are just too busy playing, exploring and building to stop and do something as mundane as putting their toys away. Even if you remind them a million times, it may not get done.
The goal with the chore chart is to get the behavior you want without the whining and foot-dragging you don’t. After using this technique for just a week, my daughter started clearing her dishes from the table after every meal without being reminded. She even did it when we forgot to do the chore chart.
Your child, like almost every mammal, can be trained to respond to positive reinforcement. Eventually, you drop the rewards, but the good behavior continues because it is now routine.
For preschoolers, these behavioral inducements should be something fun, small, and temporary. My local toy store has a wall of trinkets for $1 to $2. I pay an average of five bucks a week for whine-free, blissful tooth-brushing, dish-clearing, and room-cleaning.
So here’s how it works:
1.Make a chart or list of jobs the child needs to do to earn the reward. The number of jobs to do is the same as the child’s age, ie. 3 jobs for a 3 year, 4 for a four-year old, etc. Write a short phrase or word and put a picture next to it, then laminate (see directions below for easy laminated wall chart). Using an erasable marker, kids get to cross out each job as it is completed. Visit www.trendenterprises.com for markers.
2.Always make it clear what the reward will be. It can still be a surprise, as long as the child understands the scale of the surprise: I’ve got something in this envelope for you when you finish your jobs.
3.Be positive. Praise the child for what she has accomplished toward the goal instead of nagging about what she hasn’t done.
4.Don’t sweat it. If your child forgets to do a chore or chooses not to, don’t worry about it. The opportunity to remind your child why he needs to do the chore will arise, and you can use positive language to do it. You didn’t do all your jobs today so you don’t get a surprise tonight, but I bet you will do a better job of remembering tomorrow.
Three- to five-year- olds love to be independent. By remembering to do the chart herself, your child already feels positively rewarded. You can up the ante by having her show you the completed chart (and reacting appropriately) or gathering the family around to see her get her reward. That kind of public recognition is something you never get with bribery. It’s so… secret. Your child’s good behavior, on the other hand, should be shared with everyone.
Easy laminated wall chart:
1.Take a 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper or card stock and draw or paste on pictures to represent what your child needs to do.
2.Write a short phrase next to each picture, like brush teeth, comb hair, or make bed.
3.Starting at the bottom of the page, put a strip of shiny cello-tape across the paper. Firmly press the tape in place.
4.Place another strip of tape above this one, overlapping slightly, and press it firmly in place.
5.Repeat the process all the way to the top of the page.
6.Hang on the wall using a thumbtack.
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