Allowing Rewards and Consequences for Children's Behaviors

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

Copyright © 1999

Rewards for Keeping the Rules

These are based on the way God treats us.

He says, "If you keep this commandment there is this blessing in store."

"No if, and, or buts, it is always there."

Translated to Our Children's Rules

When you get you room clean you can be rewarded.

Rewards can be anything that is important to the child:


Getting out of the room

Use of the radio

Being paid

Going out with friends

Having electricity in their room

Using the computer for games

Use of the telephone

Looking at TV

Getting incentives

Incentives Plan...

God says, "If you are trying to do your best to do what I've given you, I will give you more blessing and more opportunities to grow and develop, and you will be happy. ie. The Parable of the Talents

Translated to Our Children's Rules

When opportunities come along, those that have been trying to keep the rules, will be the ones I select to take on this outing. Try to make incentives happen once a week at various times in the week so the children do not know when they are coming. When they don't know when they are coming, they have to be working well continuously.

Intermittent reinforcements/rewards brings the longest lasting behaviors, because people work in hopes of being rewarded at any time.

Incentives could be a special activity, buying clothes, eating out, even a lousy candy bar.

Then comes the big reward...

God says, "If you chose to try to do all the things I ask, then when I come for you can all that is Mine."

Translated to Our Children's Rules

If you do the things I tell you, you will become happy capable people.


The Lord always uses consequences. We need to also. I have explained the benefits to His plan, but if we choose not to follow His plan, there are consequences. He uses natural consequences.

Example: Loss of choices, loss of happiness, loss of health, loss of blessings.

We can use natural consequences to!

Example: If you choose not to do you room, you may not leave it until it is done.

If you haven't finished your daily chores, you cannot go out with friends.

If you can't keep your curfew then you loose the ability to go out for a time.

If you take the car and don't go where you say where you are going or don't fill the tank when bringing it back, you loose the privilege of using it for a time.

If your personal hygiene is not taken care of, then you are not ready to be in public or be with us. You stink or are dirty. If you choose to be this way, go to your room where we don't have to deal with it. When you get cleaned up you can come down for breakfast/lunch/dinner.

There has to be immediate rewards for children. It's like training a dog to do tricks. You don't say doggie roll over and somewhere down the line I promise to reward you.

The dog thinks your nuts. He thinks, "You want me to do something reward me immediately after it is done. This is the way I learn. I work, I get rewarded immediately."

God says, "Do what I say. Okay, here is the blessing!"

Children are concrete thinker's. Everything is absolute. I work, therefore I get rewarded.

See: Understanding Adolescents and Teenagers

Service needs to be modeled by the parents so hopefully the children will follow your example. Doing service out of the goodness of the heart without reward is not concrete thinking, but that of formal thinking. Until youths are formal thinkers you continue to model service and bring them along for the experience in hopes that when they do become formal thinkers they will already be service oriented people by habit of doing it. Then through formal thinking they can understand why they should do it and embrace the concept intellectually and choose to do it because it is right to do.

See: Family Night Phantom

Avoiding a Power Struggle

In families there tends to be power struggle over getting the household work done. Parents often reprimand their children for not having their work done and just as often children refuse or make up excuses why the work isn't done. Having a unified parental front with and rules and consequences jointly agreed upon and enforced by both parents, makes all the difference in the world. The rules and their consequences are presented to the children by both parents. The rules and consequences are then posted where they can see. They must always enforced immediately by both parents either separately or jointly.

See: Taking Back Control of Your Family

Scheduled Deadlines for Chores

Each housework should have a reasonable time when it should be finished before the consequence is administered. If you like a clean home to start your day then set the limit for house work to be done sometime after school and about an hour before bedtime. For most parents this means that school work and household chores must be done before a child goes out to play. Many parents provide an hour of free time after school for the child to unwind, get a snack, and discuss their day with them. Many set a mandatory study time of two hours for junior high and high school students. If the youth finishes before the two hours are up, then s/he is free to read items of their choice. This leaves an average of one or two hours for the child to get chores done. Parents that have set deadlines when housework is to be done do not have to nag their children to get their work done. If it is not done at or before the deadline then the consequence is administered unless the child has been ill or excused for an exceptional reason. Do not make a practice of excused a child from chores or s/he will become professional excuse givers and irresponsible. If exceptions need to be made, see that the exception is made on the deadline, not on the responsibility of doing the chore. Do not make a practice of making deadline extensions either. you are trying to make responsible people of your children. Having deadlines helps parents to remember to be responsible go check work.

How to Carry-Out the Consequences

1. Parents that have rules with consequences do not have to yell at children that do not have their work done. Instead they place the consequence back on the child's shoulders by saying one little statement. Just matter-of-factly say to the child, "I am sorry you chose to break the rule. Now ____________ will happen (the consequence). Then do it. There is not more reason for screaming. Your not frustrated, wondering what to do, because you already know what to do. If you forget what the consequence is for this infraction just go look at the children's copy that is posted or your own copy.

2. You may choose to help facilitate the child's ability to get through the consequence, but never do it for him/her. Example: Rule: You cannot go out with friends until your daily work is done. The child has not taken out the garbage and mopped the kitchen floor. Child's friend is at the door asking your child to come out to play. You say to your child… "Billy is at the door and wants you to go biking with him. You haven't had me check your work yet, let's go do that now." You and he go look. Take the Family Job List Binder with the list of what has to be done. You can see that some things are done and other things are not. Dwell on the positive and play down the negative. …. You say, " I can see that the cupboards are cleaned off and so is the table. They look really good. Thank you! The dishes are put away. I know that chore is not one of your favorites. I'm glad you chose to do it early. Congratulations. All you have left is moping and taking the garbage out. Look, I know Billy is in a hurry to go so how long will it take you to get the garbage out in the can? About two minutes? Then all you have left is the moping. I know a way for you do it well and it doesn't take very long. I'll go get my favorite rag. It always does a good job. While I do, you take the garbage out. We'll have you out of here in minutes and Billy won't have to wait very long."

You have just positively reinforced what the child did well or right and gave him a positive boost into finishing the rest painlessly for both of you. When he does finish, praise him/her for doing it well and quickly. Give him a pat on the back. You both leave with a smile. That is positive facilitation.

Never except second rate work because of speed or and child's wanting to leave.

3. Before you levy a consequence take time to check out the whole story. A child's point of view may be widely fabricated to let you hear what they think you want to hear. Do not let the first story you hear be the only point of view you have to act upon. At least 50% of the time you will be sorry. There is always time to seek out the whole truth. Then you can wisely levy the consequence. The child will not like it, but s/he will know that you were fair and that s/he can get be treated fairly in the future, although they may not admit this out loud.

4. There will be times that you have searched for the truth and there still seems at least two stories. Study it out the best that you can, then make a decision. Then tell the children that you will be back in a few minutes that you will take it to the Lord. You should have them do the same. Then come back and discuss the results together.

Making Reasonable Demands of Children

Basically all house rules can be boiled down to respect! Respect for God self, parents, other and property. These are reasonable demands we should expect of our children. Children want to know that there are righteous reasons behind the rules. This makes things fair. Being fair is important to concrete thinkers.

See: A Contract with the Families Youths for Optimal Family Living

When presenting a rules, explain why it is fair to ask this of them. Then explain exact examples of what the demands/rules would look like... paint a picture for concrete thinker! Remember what you say will be taken absolutely to the letter of the law.

See: The Family Job Binder


Leaving the Eldest in Charge

Often the eldest is left in charge of the rest of the children when parents go out. They often expect the eldest to make younger siblings finish their work and not get into trouble. Just as often when the parents go out the door, the rules go out the door with them. They younger siblings refuse to work and run off to play or get into other mischief. When the parents get home, the eldest usually gets in the most trouble because of what was or wasn't done.

Expecting the eldest to make younger siblings work or behave properly is unrealistic if you do not give him/her the power to carry out the consequences if the work is not done or a rule is breached. In this way children are held accountable for their work and rules, and become responsible people. The eldest gets to experience what is like having adult responsibilities which is also important for his growth and development.

If he finds that being leader is a painful no-win experience where his siblings talk back and refuse to work because he has no power over them and parents yell at him for not getting the job done, then everybody looses. To keep the parents happy he finds he has two choices.

1. Beat the siblings into submission.

2. Get the work done himself.

If the older sibling beats the younger children then he gets into trouble. If he does the work then s/he knows that he will have to do the work every time the parents leave. Neither one of these are good choices for him, so you will often see that the child will just let things slide and take the heat when the parents get home. Since this becomes the norm, the younger siblings are reinforce in their bad behavior because they were able to give the older sibling a bad time and they didn't have to get their work done. The eldest takes the heat as passively as possible, but resents the parents for their unfairness and his siblings for refusing to work and getting him/her into trouble. This can cause a passive-aggressive personality to evolve. He passively follows the demands of the parents, but when an opportunity presents itself to get back at them, he may chose up exercise it. This could take the form of cutting remarks, slights, wasting or destroying resources, or slowly eroding the credibility of parent's character. In this way he can pick the moment and the means that he can get back at parents for their injustices towards him.

These passive-aggressive tendencies follow him into adult relationships causing all kinds of problems for everyone who knows him. He will become so good at these tactics that they will become second nature to him. They will not seem unreasonable, but in fact ethical. In short you are growing a terrorist. This is not something you want to cultivate.

Amending the Rules

Often rule need change to grow with the needs of the family and to fit the age of the youth. When the parents discover this they go behind closed doors and discuss the changes and come up with a new rule and consequence which is jointly agreed upon. Often amendments to the rules can be brought up by the children, as needed, at family council. Family councils give a place where family problem and activities can be addressed. They work wonderfully and should be used on a regular basis!

See: Family Council

Shopping Parents

Children are no dummies. At a very early age they learn to from whom they can get what they want. They also realize when the best times are to ask for these favors and exactly how and what to say to get them. Often they wait for times parents are not paying attention to slip things past them that ordinarily would not be allowed. Another favorite tact is to ask for something from Father and say Mother said it was all right if it was all right with you, when in fact the mother wasn't consulted at all. All of these examples are called shopping parents and/or deceit. If you do not have rules and consequences for these actions, then do so.

The Role of the Sick Child

Many children will fake illness for a time so they can get out of school, housework, or other responsibilities.

It is often difficult to prove that a child is faking. So make a rule that children that become ill are expected to take on the "role of a sick person" for the whole day.

They must stay in their room, in bed, and rest. No TV, friends, or phone calls in or out, just bed rest. If they are feeling better they can read a book, but they can't join the rest of the family because they are ill and could contaminate the rest of the family.

There is no room for miracle cures, just in time for other another event the child may want to engage in later in the day.

Earning Extra Wages

Youths of all ages like money. They need money to help them know how to manage it.

1/10 goes to tithing.

1/10 goes to savings.

1/10 goes to their missionary fund.

The rest is their to spend as they wish or to add to their savings.

In any case children will often come asking for chores that can be done for extra money. A good rule to set is that all regular work both school and chores must be done before additional chores for extra money can be asked for.

This also holds true for the youth that has an job outside the home. His/Her work must be done before s/he can leave the home for his/her employment. This is because their first allegiance must be to the welfare of the family. If the youth is smart enough to land a job. S/He is smart enough to figure out a way to get family obligations take care of too. If this is not the case, then the job must go. This teaches the youth responsibility and commitment.

Children are unified in trying to get their own way, being lazy, and being irresponsible. It is up to parents to be come unified together in helping their children to group up as capable, responsible, people with work ethics that will serve them and their community well.

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

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