How to Use Incentives and Encourage Behavior You Want to See

Posted March 11, 2016 by

How to Use Incentives and Encourage Behavior You Want to See

Incentives are a powerful way to encourage certain behaviors in kids. Used correctly, they can motivate children to make change and stick with it.

Parents often have mixed feelings about using incentives, and they ask us how incentives differ from bribes.

Here’s how incentives are different from bribes, and how to use them effectively.

An incentive is chosen in a calm moment before a behavior takes place. You and your child talk about – and agree on – the behavior and incentive ahead of time.

For instance, you might tell your younger child that if they are calm during grocery shopping, you will spend time at the playground afterwards. Or if your older child completes their homework before dinner, they will earn a half hour of something they enjoy.

A bribe is given in the middle of bad behavior as an attempt to make it stop. If your toddler is having a tantrum at the grocery store, you might promise the playground if they’ll just stop screaming.

Bribes teach children that bad behavior will get them a reward. Incentives help children work toward a goal and celebrate their successes. Incentives shouldn’t be used for everything. It’s best to pick one or two behaviors you want to encourage and work on them with your kids.

We all enjoy incentives and use them as motivation. Kids love to earn rewards and praise. Strategically using incentives can be effective and fun for both kids and adults.

A behavior chart can be a powerful tool combined with an incentive. Feel free to download our free behavior charts to use with your children.

If you want more information about incentives, this is a very helpful article: Bribing Kids vs. Rewarding Kids for Good Behavior: What’s The Difference?

Wishing you the best this week,

Darlene, Empowering Parents Coach


Darlene Beaulieu is a parent to two teenage daughters, ages 13 and 16. She has been an Empowering Parents Coach since 2009 and has helped thousands of families in that time. She earned her Master’s Degree in Counseling and has worked in school and community settings helping children and families with academic, social, and behavioral issues.

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