#10: The Secret Truth About Rewarding Your Child

It’s About More Than Monetary Value



As a concerned parent it is only natural to want to help your child make better decisions.  The better decisions your child makes consistently the more likely your child will develop habits that lead to long term sustainable success.  Using rewards to entice your child to set goals and achieve them is a good idea if done properly.  However, do you know how to motivate your child with rewards in a way that is not purely about monetary value?  Rewards come in two forms.  Rewards can be internal such as feelings of accomplishment, self worth and self respect as well as external such as obtaining objects or entertainment that have a monetary value.  Then there is the excitement of anticipation of an award while working hard towards a desired outcome.  What if you knew how to motivate your child in a way that built his or her self image and was fun?  How would your family’s life be different?


Before we discuss healthy ways to motivate your child with rewards, let’s talk about motivation.  It is human nature to be motivated by “fear of loss”.  The fear of losing something your child enjoys is a powerful motivator.  For example, if your child loves to game then your child will likely fear losing gaming time.  As a result your child may complete homework to a lower standard than he or she is capable of in order to avoid losing gaming time.  Let’s say your goal is to encourage your child to “up level his or her personal game” and become a peak performer.  If you present your child with grand rewards to accomplish homework to a higher standard, the grand rewards by themselves are not likely to motivate your child to chance his or her behavior over a long period of time.  Are you curious as to why?


Your child most likely does not envision him or her self interacting and using grand rewards nearly as easily as something your child uses everyday like his or her gaming console.  In other words, it may be easier for your child to envision the pain of not being able to play video games, rather than envision the pleasure of grand rewards.  The more easily your child can envision something the more “real” it becomes to him or her.  Therefore, instead of offering grand rewards for grand results, start with smaller rewards for taking action consistently.  The smaller rewards will be easier for your child to envision him or her self using and will seem easier to work towards.  Start off with something simple like a gift card for the movies.  If your child likes going to the movies, your child can envision him or herself using a reward of a gift card easily.  The more easily your child can envision him or herself enjoying rewards, the more likely your child is to strive towards earning them.


While rewards are a great encouragement and motivation tool they should not be used in any and all circumstances.  Using rewards to motivate your child to complete homework isn’t a great idea simply because the concept of homework is not about “going above and beyond”.  It’s like rewarding your child for cleaning your home.  Your child lives there and should contribute in some form or manner.  Likewise, attending school is your child’s “job” and homework is part of his or her responsibilities.  With responsibilities come privileges like video game time.  With additional responsibilities come rewards like a gift card to the movies.


Additional responsibilities can include applying to scholarships and making an effort to help pay his or her own way through college.  When talking to your child, try saying something like… “I want you to apply to scholarships. Applying to scholarships will teach you many life skills that are not taught in high school, such as how to fill out an application.  To encourage and motivate you I will buy a movie gift card for you and a friend for each application completed.”


When your child applies to a scholarship he or she will likely show you his or her application “to prove” he or she is applying.  You can take this opportunity to review your child’s work and make recommendations before submission.  Then you can be excited about buying a movie gift card for your child and his or her friend.  When giving the gift card the desired response you want your child to say to himself or herself is “Wow! My mom must be really proud of me.  I know how busy she is and how much she had to go out of her way to get this gift card for me.”  In this situation the reward is nice but so are the feelings of gratitude for you taking time out of your busy day to happily and eagerly do something nice for your child.


Another way to encourage your child to take action can be as simple as offering to make your child’s favorite meal for dinner as a reward for spending an hour working on a scholarship essay.  For example, you can say… “Let me know which night you will set down for an hour to work on your scholarship essay.  I will plan on making your favorite meal for that evening.”  This “sets the stage” so your child will anticipate a dinner conversation about the progress he or she made on his or her scholarship essay.  This provides accountability as well as associates working hard with a desired outcome, your child’s favorite meal made especially for him or her.


To encourage your child to regularly search for new scholarships to apply to, try using multiple smaller rewards.  Say something like…  “I know searching for scholarships is not something you are used too, but I am sure in due time you will find plenty of scholarships that are a good fit for you.  I am going to the grocery store.  I know you could use a snake break while searching for scholarships.  Is there anything in particular you are in the mood for”?  Buying your child’s favorite snack food is one way to show your child you want to encourage him or her in an ongoing way.  Present small rewards for taking action and then present larger rewards to celebrate desired outcomes that occurred because of the consistent actions your child took.


Here are 25 external reward ideas:

  1. Gift card for a car wash and/or detailing services
  2. Gas card
  3. Gift card for massage or spa appointment
  4. Gift card for manicure and/or pedicure
  5. Book from favorite author
  6. CD from favorite artist
  7. DVD movie from favorite actor/actress
  8. Day trip
  9. Gift card to favorite café house
  10. Gift card to favorite restaurant
  11. Restock the kitchen with favorite drinks, snacks and candy
  12. Cook favorite dinner
  13. Gift card to favorite store
  14. A “Chores Pass” to use to “get out” of his or her least favorite chore
  15. Gift card that relates to your child’s passion or hobby
  16. Subscription to your child’s favorite magazine
  17. Subscription to a club
  18. Gift card to the movies
  19. Have a bar-q-que in your child’s honor, let your son or daughter pick his or her favorite foods to bar-b-que
  20. Water park tickets
  21. Event tickets
  22. Sporting event tickets
  23. Museum tickets
  24. Concert tickets
  25. Upgrade tickets to VIP


You can also give your child the gift of internal rewards by “sprinkling in” a few extra words in your conversations with your child.  Say things such as… “While I was making dinner tonight I was thinking about your focus and determination that is demonstrated when you work on scholarship applications.  I would like to give you a gift card to your favorite store as a reward for each scholarship you win.  Which  store would you like a gift card for?  By adding words of traits you admire, such as focus and determination in your conversations; you give your child a reward money can not buy, recognition.


Here are 97 traits you can acknowledge:

  1. Accountability
  2. Accuracy
  3. Adaptability
  4. Adventure
  5. Agility
  6. Alertness
  7. Ambition
  8. Appreciation
  9. Approachability
  10. Assertiveness
  11. Attentiveness
  12. Audacity
  13. Awareness
  14. Boldness
  15. Calmness
  16. Candor
  17. Cleverness
  18. Commitment
  19. Composure
  20. Concentration
  21. Congruency
  22. Connection
  23. Consistency
  24. Contribution
  25. Cooperation
  26. Courage
  27. Creativity
  28. Curiosity
  29. Dependability
  30. Determination
  31. Devotion
  32. Dexterity
  33. Diligence
  34. Directness
  35. Discipline
  36. Drive
  37. Eagerness
  38. Effectiveness
  39. Efficiency
  40. Encouragement
  41. Endurance
  42. Energy
  43. Enthusiasm
  44. Ethics
  45. Excellence
  46. Expectancy
  47. Expressiveness
  48. Flexibility
  49. Focus
  50. Gratitude
  51. Honesty
  52. Hopefulness
  53. Imagination
  54. Inquisitiveness
  55. Insightfulness
  56. Integrity
  57. Intensity
  58. Involvement
  59. Leadership
  60. Learning
  61. Liveliness
  62. Mastery
  63. Maturity
  64. Meekness
  65. Meticulousness
  66. Mindfulness
  67. Motivation
  68. Optimism
  69. Organization
  70. Patience
  71. Passion
  72. Perseverance
  73. Persistence
  74. Persuasiveness
  75. Poise
  76. Practicality
  77. Precision
  78. Preparedness
  79. Professionalism
  80. Punctuality
  81. Rationality
  82. Reasonableness
  83. Resilience
  84. Resourcefulness
  85. Respect
  86. Responsibility
  87. Self-awareness
  88. Self-control
  89. Self-reliance
  90. Self-respect
  91. Service
  92. Sincerity
  93. Skillfulness
  94. Trustworthiness
  95. Uniqueness
  96. Volunteering
  97. Willingness


Used properly, rewards can motivate your child to take consistent action that leads to results.  Small rewards work well in helping your child take consistent action because your child can easily envision him or herself using the rewards and therefore is more likely to work towards earning them.  Larger rewards work well for celebrations when the outcome from consistent actions leads to successes.  Rewards are not limited to only having monetary value.  Rewards can be a mix of external and internal gratification.  Simply “sprinkling in” a few descriptive words gives your child recognition and can amplify the deliciousness of conversations.  A few rewards of varying sizes and a few small changes in the way you talk to your child can have dramatic positive life long effects for your family.


Revisit the list of 97 traits and make a list of the ones your child has.  This will make it easier for you to “sprinkle in” these words into conversations with your child.


enjoying 3D movie

“My best friend and I spent Saturday afternoon watching a 3D movie thanks a gift card my mom gave me.” – Your Daughter



BONUS: Capturing Memories

Give your child the gift of a scrap book and supplies to help your child capture memories with ticket stubs, pictures and other keep sakes.

Here are two examples from Michaels arts and craft store, where creativity happens.  (Note: at the time of publishing this post, these particular products are in stock.  Due to the nature of the craft business, new styles and products are being made available regularly and current styles may not be around indefinitely.)




me & my BIG ideas® Album in an Instant™, Caribbean 

me & my BIG ideas® Album in an Instant™, Caribbean


Create your very own memory album or scrapbook with this Me and My Big Ideas album kit. It has beautiful layouts that have specialty treatments such as dimensional embellishments, glitter and more. Personalize this album by inserting photos in the openings.

  • 12″ x 12″ (30cm x 30cm)
  • 20 pre-designed pages
  • Includes chipboard, embellishments, stickers, rhinestones and glitter


Or you can buy an album and then buy embellishments separately.

Heidi Swapp™ Memory Planner® Time Capsule Embellishment Kit

Heidi Swapp™ Memory Planner® Time Capsule Embellishment Kit

Decorate your scrapbook, memory album or journals using this embellishment kit from Heidi Swapp. The kit includes paper clips, stamps, stickers and ephemera to personalize your papercraft projects.


  • 16 clear acrylic stamps
  • 10 tickets
  • 10 paper ephemera
  • 10 acetate ephemera
  • 8 shaped paper clips
  • 1 glitter alphabet sticker sheet (150 stickers)
  • 1 gold-colored sticker sheet (52 stickers)
  • 1 sticker sheet (20 stickers)
  • 1 washi sheet (9 stickers)


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