If you’re a parent, you know that children respond well to rewards. Just think about it. What’s one of the biggest tips to potty-training your toddler? Give them praise and rewards when they “do their business” in the toilet. Never punish them for getting it wrong. Why would older children, school-age children, be any different? They’re not.
We likely spend all day encouraging our children, even if we don’t realize we’re doing it. “Good job, buddy.” “Nice work!” “I’m so proud of you.” Those are just a few of the things that parents tell their children on a regular basis. Sometimes you need a bit more though, and that’s where incentives and rewards can come in.
Incentives and rewards are similar in concept, but not exactly the same. An incentive can become a reward, but it starts out as its own thing; it’s the promise and the reward is the follow through. In the world of homeschooling, we might use incentives to urge our children on in doing a particularly difficult assignment, or more broadly, to learn a difficult concept (like times tables or learning to read). When they succeed, they get the reward.
The incentive and reward “required” will vary from child to child. I’ve talked before about how when our children read their first chapter book (whether a novel or a nonfiction book like a biography), we get them a trophy of some sort. Our oldest child was all about Ancient Egypt when he was learning to read, so his trophy is a replica of a mummy’s sarcophagus (head only). Our second child, who read his first chapter book at about the same time as his older brother, really liked learning about medieval times. His trophy is a bookend of a knight in shining armor. Our third child was a late reader, just like our first child. He loves literature – he just prefers to listen to it rather than reading it. So even though he didn’t really read, he had plenty of exposure to good books, and therefore had a favorite author. So his trophy was an autographed book from that author. The incentive was always “when you read a chapter book, you’ll get a trophy.” The reward was the trophy itself.
Incentives and rewards aren’t just for kids, though. As adults, we also relish in the encouragement of our spouses and friends. Just think about how good it feels when you’ve spent a long time cleaning your home, and your husband returns from work or a day out and notices. He tells you, “The house looks good today. Thank you.” That’s a fantastic feeling! Without even necessarily doing it on purpose, he has given you encouragement and reward all in one little statement.
What about in homeschooling? I know that some of the best rewards I get as a homeschooling mom is when my children are really learning well. And enjoying their time with me. I love to see their eyes light up when they learn a new concept, or when something finally clicks. Reading is the biggest one for me. When my children finally understand that all those funny little squiggles they’ve seen everywhere (letters) work together to make words, and they are able to decipher those squiggles and understand the words for the first time… those are my favorite homeschool moments, by far.
So today, let me finish up by offering you just a tiny bit of encouragement.
You are a good mom, even on the days you don’t feel like one. Even when the days feel impossible to navigate, you can do it. Your children are grateful to be home with you rather than in a public school, even if they tell you they aren’t.
You are enough.
This post is part of the 2021 Homeschool Review Crew Not-Back-To-Homeschool blog hop. Click any of the links below to read more posts on this topic.