Get Your Kids To Do Chores Using Reward Programs

By: Cheryl Maguire

I love reward programs. When a cashier asks me if I want to sign up for a store rewards program I start to salivate like Pavlov’s Dogs with the anticipated credit I could receive. I’m a member of so many programs that I need a separate key chain to hold the cards.

Reward programs are based on the psychological term, “behavioral modification,” which is a method of changing a person’s behavior by using either a negative or positive reinforcement. Dr. Miltenberger has done extensive research in this area and wrote the textbook Behavior Modification: Principles and Procedures, 6th Edition. In this book, he provided detailed examples of applying behavior modification to daily life.

My children share my love of receiving a prize for their good behavior.  It can be hard to motivate kids to help out around the house, and one way to do that is through rewards programs.

Even though money is a popular reward, you do not have to use money or toys to motivate your child (but you could). A reward could be letting them invite friends over or allowing them to choose what you eat for dinner. It is important for you and your child to create the list of rewards together so that the child wants it and you agree to give it.

Here are four reward programs you can use at home with one or multiple children:

The Gem Jar

What you need: A clear see through container like a glass/plastic jar or bowl and either some marbles (gem) or other similar material you can place in the bowl.

How it works: Anytime you see a positive behavior, such as saying “thank-you” or being helpful, you place a gem (marble) in the jar. When the jar is filled with gems, your child or children get a reward. In my child’s class, they would have a party (such as a pajama party) or bring a stuffed animal to school party. At home, you can decide with your child/children what they would like as a reward.

The Penny Program

What you need: Pennies and a box or container to put the pennies in for each child.

How it works: Each child starts out with 5 pennies. When they display positive behavior, they earn a penny, but when they display negative behavior, a penny is taken away. When a child earns a set amount of pennies, they earn a reward. You should have a designated container with each’s child’s name for their pennies.

Chance Cards

What you need: Paper, writing utensil and a container.

How it works: Write each child’s name on a separate piece of paper, called a “chance card.” When the child displays positive behavior, they can place the card in the container.  At the end of the week, you select one piece of paper and the child selected gets a reward. A child can earn more than once chance card, increasing the possibility of being selected. The cards are not removed, so the following week, the child would still have a chance to win. If you only have one child, you could modify the process by writing the reward on the chance card instead of the child’s name. At the end of the week, the child could select the reward from the container.

The Clip Up Chart

What you need: A poster board with color levels and clothespins for each child, labeled with their name

How it works: There are 7 levels and all the children start the day at the same green (medium) level, labeled “ready to learn”. There are specific behaviors associated with each level. If the child has a few positive behaviors, the teacher will allow the student to move their clothespin and “clip up” to the next color level. If a child clipped up to the point where they were off the levels, they could choose an in class special behavior (pick your seat, etc.), or the child could take a prize from the prize box. If a child clipped down, the first level was “time out to reflect on your actions”, the second warning was “parent contact,” and if they went beyond that, it was to the Principal’s office.


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