Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Rewards For Kids or Good For Nothing?

The Smiths pay their kids for good grades. The Johnsons wouldn't think of it. The Andersons have found that providing financial and privilege incentives for their elementary-aged children really motivates them but the Davis' think kids need to learn to do their part without complaining.

Parents and so-called parenting "experts" have disagreed for decades about whether children should be given anything beyond the pride of accomplishment for helping at home, doing well in school, practicing their instrument and the like. And my hunch is that you blog readers will have varying views on the subject. I'd love to hear from you.

Nonetheless, while I'm far from the last word on anything, let me offer a few principles or guidelines that you might at least ponder as you do your best to teach, motivate and mature your kids.

First, remember what motivates you. My hunch is that while you may love your job, it's the money, bonuses and vacation time that keep you at the top of your game and going to work everyday. Incentives aren't inherently wrong so don't totally throw them out of your parenting manual.

Second, if you use rewards, allowance and other incentives don't apply them to everything or use them all the time.  Special bonuses should come later and not be the norm. When your kids are little they can learn how to help pick up, do simple chores and assist mom and dad just because they're family too. Teaching kids a healthy work ethic usually finds its foundation in learning to labor well whether there's a personal benefit or not.

Third, you can use rewards to teach children important life lessons.  For example, they can learn to save, to not always get what they want immediately and even to begin to give offerings to God. A simple allowance or some special pay for an over-the-expected chore can provide you  and them some learning capital with which to teach and train. They can also learn that even though you have something (like a salary) you won't keep it if you don't work, show up on time and do things well.

Finally, rewards can often help a child who is struggling an extra push toward reaching an important goal. Not every child will be a naturally good student, athlete, musician or worker at home. Sometimes though that extra nudge from mom and dad with a reward can motivate them and teach them that sometimes working extra hard is worth it in very tangible ways.

So, you'll have to decide what works best at your house but keep the options open when it comes to motivating your kids. I don't think I've ever met an adult who felt like they were emotionally messed up because their parents rewarded them now and then for hard work. But I have met a lot more individuals and couples whose parents didn't teach them much of anything about money, time and resources and they're paying a high price now.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.


  1. Great points, I just posted about youth sports and kids trophies and who should get them.

  2. We are teaching with incentives and allowance. I agree with you that there are some valuable lessons children can learn about money, responsibility, and self control. It's all about balance, as with anything else.