Episode #40 – I’ve Been Rewarding…Now What?
We got an email the other day from one of our listeners about rewards and transitioning away from rewards. Here’s the question:
“How do you transition from giving rewards for things [your foster kids do, to] foster kids doing that thing without a reward? So for example, if I explain to my foster kid what kind of behavior I expect from them in the grocery store and motivate them with the reward of a candy bar, we role play, go to the store and everything goes great and they get their reward how long do we keep this up? Do they get a candy bar for every task, day of good behavior, etc. forever?”
So, here’s what we think.
Rewards don’t really ever go away.
Human beings don’t really do much, or anything really, without the possibility of a reward.
- Work = Paycheck
- Ask a girl out = Possibility of her saying “Yes”
- Eating food = Feeling satisfied
See what I mean. If you don’t feel rewarded for something in some way, your likely not going to do it again.
Natural vs. Forced Rewards.
The difference is their are natural rewards and consequences, and those that are not really natural. Natural consequences are things that occur naturally and they are not forced. While the forced consequences are things that we throw in and create on our own.
- You behave at the store = A happy foster parent, and more trust.
- You come home on time = More trust, maybe 15 minutes added to curfew.
- You go to bed on time = Happy foster parents and well rested foster kids.
- If you go to bed tonight, then I’ll give you a candy bar in the morning.
- If you stop fighting while we’re in the car, then I’ll buy you ice cream.
Neither one is necessarily bad, it’s just that forced rewards and consequences are not very permanent. Whereas, natural rewards and consequence often take place without us even having to do things.
When to use forced rewards and when to use natural rewards.
This is were lines begin to be blurred. We like to use a combination of forced and natural rewards. Forced rewards have a tendency of getting noticed. For example, in episode 3 we talk about “Bed Fairy Treats.” You can check that out here. Bed fairy treats are not natural, but they get kids attention, show that their action was appreciated, and motivate them to do it again.
After a week, bed fair treats become less and less frequent. In fact, after the first week we only do them very sporadically, maybe once a month or so. Yet, kids keep making their beds, usually.
With our teens we use TV episodes. In episode 25 we talk about how our kids earn episodes of “Dr. Who.” If our kids complete their chores, follow all rules, and do what we practice for their skills, they earn 1 or more episodes of a TV show. This is kind of forced rewards mashed up with natural rewards. You can check out that episode here.
The natural reward for completing all of your chores and responsibilities with a good attitude is free time. The forced reward of watching a TV episode is simply to make it shiny and intriguing.
Create rewards that are natural and forced to get a big bang!
We often set big goals. For some this might be to behave at the store for a month. Others might have the goal of coming home on time for a month.
Set the goal, let your kids know what is expected, and let them know what the stakes are. Remember to tie in both natural rewards and forced rewards. For example:
- If you can behave at the store for three weeks, you can earn the following rewards:
- Our trust in you will increase (Natural).
- You’ll show us that you can behave out of our home (Natural).
- Because we can trust that you’ll behave out of our home, we could go to a movie (Forced).
- If you come home before your curfew for 1 month, you can earn the following rewards:
- Our trust in you will increase (Natural).
- You’ll show us that you will follow the rules of our home (Natural).
- Because we can trust that you’ll follow the rules of our home, we can add 15 minutes to your curfew (Forced).
Make sure the reward works for everyone.
Your foster kids would probably be fine getting a candy bar every time they went to the store and behaved. But, that probably wouldn’t work for you. Instead, give a candy bar only randomly, very very randomly, as a reward. Other times simply acknowledge their efforts, both in the moment and after. For example, “You guys were great at the store today.” and later that evening, “Because you guys were so good at the store, I made a little dessert for you.”
Call to Action:
- Evaluate your rewards systems. What needs fixed?
- Come up with a good combination of natural and forced rewards.
- Let us know how it’s working for you!
Thanks so much for listening. Stay tuned next week to hear more…
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Until next time!
Ben & Deb Pugh
The Foster Parents