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Developing a Rewards System for Teenagers

by Sheryl Faber

Your teen is beyond the magnetic chart on the refrigerator that tracks whether he has done his homework or brushed his teeth, but you do want to develop a system that rewards completed chores, good behavior and high grades. There are many effective strategies to motivate your teen, and a rewards system may be just the right method to entice him to do his very best.

Goal Setting for Your Teen

Decide on the behaviors you wish to change or the habits that need to be formed. List them in order of importance and choose the five or six most important. These behaviors could include getting up for school on time, making the honor roll, keeping her room clean or helping with younger siblings. Make the desired goals reasonable and attainable so your teen will feel that she can accomplish them in the time designated.

Involve Your Teen in the Process

Your teen may wish to be involved with the process, so include him in your plans. Allow him to choose objectives and figure out how to make them possible. Ask for his input, and clearly explain and illustrate all the rules, time frames and rewards of the system. Be very specific on the behaviors needed to accomplish the selected goals. Don't just say "clean your room," but specify that the bed needs to be made, the floor swept or vacuumed, and all clothing put neatly away.

A System that Works

Teens love extra cash, so monetary rewards may work the best for them. For every good behavior or goal reached, dropping a penny or a poker chip in a fishbowl will help them monitor their progress. At the end of the one- or two-week period, count the cash or the chips and designate a specific sum of money for each token dropped. For example, they could each be worth a quarter, fifty cents or even a dollar, depending on the strength and number of the objectives chosen. Prizes can also be effective -- movie tickets, prepaid credit cards or gift cards to favorite venues are choices teens might enjoy.

Goal Attainment

Parents can continue the rewards program for weeks or months until the objectives are attained. At this time, you can discontinue the program or put a new one in place. Hopefully, your teen will have developed new behaviors and habits that will remain in place for years. If she falls back on her old ways, the system can be repeated until she attains her goals again.

Disadvantages of Rewards Systems

A rewards system may not always be the best method to encourage some teens to reach their goals. They may become dependent on these rewards and fail to learn how to take the initiative to complete tasks on their own. Pressure may also be required from parents to get their teen to complete the tasks required, and constant nagging from parents defeats the purpose of the system. If your goal is to raise an independent, responsible teen, use rewards systems to develop new habits and discontinue as soon as your teen learns how to reach his objectives in an effective and timely manner.

Resources

  • "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Parenting a Teenager;" Kate Kelly

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images