Weaning Off Rewards to Promote Responsibility

So many parents and teachers believe that it is necessary to give young people a reward for doing the right thing that it is a challenging endeavor to stop the practice. But rewards don’t promote responsibility, which is why they need to stop.

A parent asked how to wean her child off the rewards system. Here is what she wrote:

How do I wean my five-year-old son from expecting rewards? He’ll make his bed, straighten all his shoes, and hang up his clothes, all without being asked, and then he comes running up to me with a smiling face and says, “NOW can I have something?” Oh, boy! Have I turned his taking responsibility into a reward? Do I then say “no” and crush his attempt to do the right thing?

Here’s the suggestion to break this cycle:

Explain to him that there are things that a family does to make life smoother and more organized. When he has finished a chore, help him realize that he is a member of the family team and he has contributed to the well-being of the family. You can say, “Isn’t it great that you made your own bed!” “How do you feel now that you did it yourself?” “Don’t you feel proud when you have helped the family by doing your own tasks so Mother doesn’t have to do it for you?”

The change from expecting rewards to being responsible won’t happen overnight. But with practice, it will happen, and the child will develop personal responsibility.