The Truth About Reward Systems

How do you get your kids to listen and follow instructions? How do you develop a reward system for children – and stick to it? A Twin Cities Kids Club MembershipOpens in a new tab. doesn’t solve these eternal parenting questions; it does provide access to local discounted activities.

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to the perfect reward system. Likewise, we can’t honestly tell you that there is a perfect reward system that you and your child will love.

What we can tell you, however, is that reward systems and positive reinforcement are effective parenting tools. We’re not just making this up! Experts agree.

Let’s take a look at some efficient strategies to help parents develop an efficient – and doable – reward system for children.

Little girl been rewarded for good behavior by her mother with colorful stickers.

Why Parents Should Consider a Reward System for Children

First thing’s first. If you don’t already have a family reward system, you’re probably wondering if they really work. 

Good news: reward systems for children work! There’s research and everything.

What the Experts Say

The whole idea behind this particular parenting tool is positive reinforcement of good behavior. When you punish a child for bad actions, they certainly understand what you don’t want them to do. But wouldn’t it be easier for everyone involved if children understood how you wanted them to behave to begin with?

Now, moms and dads need a combination of positive and negative reinforcementOpens in a new tab.. When a parent develops a reward system for children, it shouldn’t be the only tool in their kit. A rewards chart, for example, shouldn’t become a substitute for other disciplines, or a cure-all for bad behavior. 

However, like the song says, if you accentuate the positive and latch onto the affirmative, you can eliminate the negative!

Reward Systems Work at Any Age

Regardless of whether you have young children or tweensOpens in a new tab., you can develop a positive reinforcement method to meet your needs. However, keep in mind that reward systems need to be more sophisticated for children who are closer to adolescence.

Mother giving money to adolescent for reward

Tweens and Teens

Older children and teens may actually learn better from mistakesOpens in a new tab. than from rewards. Therefore, positive reinforcement for teens and tweens should be more collaborative and take into account kids’ powers of understanding. Behavior contractsOpens in a new tab. are one example of this reward system strategy.

A behavior contract takes both a carrot and a stick approach. Parents should model behavior contracts for older kids around “if/then” statements. For example, “if you finish your homework on time on school nights, then you can watch tv after dinner.”

Early Elementary School Kids

Parents should address reward systems for kids who are no longer toddlers but who are not yet tweens differently.

These kids likely require tangible rewards, but are capable of understanding how to work toward a goal. 


Sometimes, the classics are the classics for a reason: they are effective. The traditional allowance is certainly a way to go! 

Allowances can also be an effective way to teach other life lessons, such as saving and budgeting.

Mother And Daughter Putting Star On Reward Chart

Simple Sticker Charts

However, if you want to steer clear of money changing hands, you can use other rewards system methods. One allowance alternative is awarding stickers or velcro stars on a chartOpens in a new tab.. You can purchase these charts online, or print off simple ones for free from various websites.

Most of these kinds of charts have a space for around five stickers or velcro stars. Often, they will feature a square for the child to write or draw what reward they are working toward. When a child accumulates five stars or stickers on their chart for good behavior, parents give them the agreed-upon reward.

Many of the charts you can buy online come with magnets, so parents can easily display them on the fridge. Rewards don’t need to be complicated; they can be something like a favorite dessert or extra tablet time before bed

Smiling little girl with round stickers on fingers, one red and one green. Good or bad? Isolated.

Reward Systems for Toddlers and Preschool-Aged Children

This age requires the simplest rewards system, but is arguably the best time to implement one. The earlier you can instill good habits, the better.

The best thing about these early years is that rewards can be simple. They don’t need to cost much – or anything at all! For very young children, the tracking method is a reward system in and of itself.

One good reward system for children is ideal for toddlers and preschoolers is the cotton ball method. 

Every time a child exhibits good behavior or they listen to mom or dad, they get a cotton ball. Deposit each cotton ball in a glass jar or other clear container, so your child can watch them accumulate. When the jar or clear container is full, the child receives a simple reward – again, nothing fancy or expensive necessary!

Consider a travel version for when you go out, bringing small craft pom poms and two little, clear containers. Give your child a pom pom for every commandment they obey or each act of good behavior they perform. Move the pom poms from the container in which you are keeping them to the other, empty container.

Just for the fun of it, here are some tipsOpens in a new tab. to keep your kiddos entertained in the car (and hopefully not misbehaving.)

Attaching bright sign. Smiling dark-haired student getting reward for his work after intense ecology course

Twin Cities Kids Club Membership Can Bolster Your Rewards System

Whatever reward system you decide is best, consider complementing it with a Twin Cities Kids ClubOpens in a new tab. membership. Access  discounted activities in the Twin Cities area and a network of affordable family-friendly opportunities. 

Brainstorming incentives for your child’s rewards system that won’t break the bank will be a cinch. Be the first to know about free activities like chocolate factory tours, movies in the park, magic shows, and more! What’s more, free events like these are better than rewards like toys or snacks that can quickly be forgotten.

With a Twin Cities Kids Club membership, parents and children can create lasting memories together. Give your kid the gift of positive reinforcement with a rewards system that works for everyone. 

Strengthen this foundation of this self-esteem-building rewards system with incentives that teach children the value of meaningful experiences with family.

Twin Cities Kids Club

Founded in 2015, Twin Cities Kids Club is your online source for money saving discounts that families on a budget can use at exclusive local children’s events. If you live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul and surrounding area and you are looking for the best deals on family fun, Twin Cities Kids Club is the place for you. We have all of the family entertainment deals, news and events you can handle and we are passionate about connecting Twin Cities families with local businesses for fun and entertainment. Join Twin Cities Kids Club now and stay on top of Twin Cities family fun today.

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