Rewards should be an easy add-on to the family discipline plan. Truly as much care should be given to the rewards that will be used as to the rules and consequences. Ideally, your child will come to understand that the satisfaction of meeting the expectation is the reward. In the meantime, you will need positive reinforcements that reward desired behavior.
Verbal praise is the first and last reward in the sequence of building a healthy desire in your child to follow the rules. Verbal praise should also be used every step of the way. When your child attempts the desired behavior, tell her that she did a good job. Make sure that your words, body language, and facial expressions are all saying the same thing.
Use verbal praise often, but only offer it in response to sincere efforts. When you verbally praise your child's half-hearted attempts to do what you ask of her, the compliment will not be as meaningful.
There are several views on using food as a reward. The habit of rewarding yourself with food when you complete a task is not very healthy. However, for some children with special needs, a food reward is one of the few things that is motivating. This may be true for the child who has a more severe cognitive delay and limited verbal skills.
Sometimes small chocolate candies or small crackers (one at a time) are effective. For example, perhaps the child has completed her daily behavior chart and has earned five happy faces at the end of the day. She might be rewarded with five pieces of candy.
As soon as your child is interested in other rewards, such as tokens or preferred activities, begin to work those into your discipline plan. You will be fostering healthier eating habits. If your child is resistant to this change, try giving the food reward along with the preferred activity. Gradually phase out the food.
Some children like to get a sticker. Perhaps a poster board in your child's room could be used as the sticker poster. Small items can also be used for rewards, including:
A small toy (given at the end of a week, providing that the required number of positive marks are earned)
A coin for her bank
A colorful pencil
Any small token that is motivating for the child
A preferred activity can be used as a reward. It can be something that the child does during a typical day but would love to do more (such as watching a DVD). It can also be a preferred activity that is used only for reward (blowing bubbles in the backyard). Again, the motivation and appropriateness of the activity depends on the child.
Special Outings and Events
Consider a special outing or event as a larger reward. Perhaps your child likes to eat at a popular hamburger place. That might be a reward at the end of a good week. Perhaps your child wants to visit the zoo. Again, that would be a reward after a block of time.
Younger children need rewards after shorter periods of time. “You did a great job this morning. Let's play on the swings before lunch.” Older children can work for a reward over time.