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Rewarding Your Children: Alternatives to Money

Whatever happened to the good ol days of just words of encouragement and praise? Internal rewards are powerful but it seems like the norm for rewarding kids is mostly money. Is it because it is easier on parents or is that really what children prefer? 

My son is only three so right now it’s easy to reward him with a trip to the park, eating out, or watching a show of his choice, but when he gets older those things may not be as rewarding to him… In fact, he is already asking for TWENTY DOLLARS! Yes, exactly TWENTY! I’m not sure where it’s coming from, but as he gets older I definitely don’t want to turn into an ATM for things I expect like good grades, clean room, good behavior, etc. So what are some alternatives to rewarding with money?


I did a little research and found some great tips and some not so great like having dating privileges and being allowed to sit alone when the family goes out to eat! Ummmmm no! 

Here are a few of my favorite alternative rewards:

1.  Receiving a magazine subscription or a trip to the library– This is one of my favorite and also encourages reading.

2. Going someplace alone with dad and/or mom – Especially if you have other children, the one on one time with your child can be a special treat. Maybe out for ice cream, try a new restaurant, or go see a movie of their choice.

3. Getting a special haircut or hair style – This may not be a big deal to some, but as I look back on my teenage years this would have been a big deal and great motivator to me. I wasn’t allowed to have my hair cut without permission and color was out of the question for sure.

I do not believe there is a wrong or right answer to rewarding children, but I think embracing the idea of doing well just because it is the right thing to do is a great thing and in the long run will build good character. Money is certainly a great incentive, but there has to be a balance.  What are your thoughts and do you have any other suggestions for rewarding children?