Keep Your Child Healthy and Active Over Summer Break
byChristopher E. Nelson5 min to read
This post was originally published in November 2012, and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in October 2021.
As parents and as Connections Academy® Learning Coaches, we know that kids will push our buttons—and our limits—almost any way they can. Some kids may even rebel a bit more with Mom or Dad guiding their homeschool day.
Until they mature a bit, it’s not unusual for children to lack the motivation to “be good” just because it is expected. It might even be the result of a common child behavior change that all families might experience. But how can an adult teach a child to improve their behavior during online school classes and beyond without resorting to frequent arguing and punishment?
The answer may be a reward system. Because reward systems for kids at home provide positive reinforcement(opens in a new tab) for good conduct, this kind of behavior modification program can be a valuable tool to encourage children to change.
Here are 10 tips for developing an effective reward system for your k-12 virtual school students.
Don’t overwhelm your child with a lengthy list of faults—imagine how you’d feel if someone did that to you! Instead, focus on one top priority behavior change until that problem is resolved.
When planning appropriate reward systems for kids, think about your child’s personality and what’s most important to him or her. Chances are, it’s different for each of your children. Rewards needn’t be expensive; many parents use dollar store items or small privileges. Here are several low- or no-cost rewards your children may appreciate:
Kids are more likely to comply with a virtual learning reward system they agree with and helped create, so before putting your plan in place, talk about it together. Ask for your child’s input about the goals, rules, and “prizes,” and try to incorporate suggestions that are reasonable.
Young children still struggling with their patience may have trouble waiting to collect multiple points or stickers before earning a reward. It’s best to structure programs for them to provide immediate gratification. Reserve points systems for older kids who can grasp the incentive for “saving up” for a higher-value reward.
When you work with your homeschool child, state the desired behavior as a positive outcome.
Specify the details of how your child earns the reward, such as start time, location, and steps involved in the task.
Put the rules for earning virtual school rewards in writing so you can refer back to them.
Enforce the rules consistently, without “stretching” the boundaries or giving credit for almost hitting the goal. Always remember to give the reward when it’s earned! And no taking back virtual school rewards that have already been earned—that’s not fair!
Don’t rely on the “treat” or “prize” only; be sure to continue giving your child a pat on the back, hugs, and plenty of praise to reinforce their good behavior.
It can take 2 to 8 months to form a habit(opens in a new tab), so don’t be discouraged if you don’t see immediate results. Keep in mind that you may need to change the reward if your child becomes bored with it, but be sure to involve your child in choosing a new one of equal value.
The ultimate goal is to help your child become self-motivated to perform the desired task or behavior. When the positive change has been achieved, tell your child how proud you are of his or her success. After this, you have several options:
Learning to be self-motivated and well-behaved is an ongoing process for most school-age children. Remember that you may need to tweak your virtual incentives for students for more difficult tasks or goals. What works for one child may not work for his or her siblings, but once you understand the basic premise of the virtual learning reward system, it becomes easier to adapt it to each personality. With a bit of practice, the rewards system for kids is likely to become the most valuable gadget in your parenting toolkit!
Helping your child become a self-motivated learner is the start of a rewarding online school career. Check out eight more tips to help your middle school or high school student adopt good habits for successful online learning.