Using Incentives and Motivation: Tips and Tricks

Updated: Apr 8



Children take their cues from their parents. If becoming a great reader is important to you, then they need to know. You must communicate that reading is important. Simply telling your child they must learn to read is not going to be enough to convince them that they should, nor will you be promoting a lifelong interest in reading. It may sound silly, but you must make it a priority and family value!


Celebrate small victories in reading. This is especially important when working with reluctant or struggling readers. It is not easy to commit and work hard day after day on something that is difficult, not necessarily fun, nor when there doesn’t seem to be a purpose behind it. Most reluctant or struggling readers do not see the importance behind learning to read. With guidance and time, most make that connection between reading and enjoyment or knowledge, but again, it takes time and reinforcement from you.


If your child finishes a book for the first time, or overcomes an obstacle, even if it seems minor to you, celebrate it! Let them know that their hard work and perseverance does not go unnoticed.


TIP: Incentives. Some children respond better to incentives than others. Some require them in the beginning to make progress, others do not need them at all. Incentives are most effective when the child does not see any relevance or personal importance in learning to read. Having a small but meaningful incentive bridges the gap between resistance and progress. Sometimes, a small token is what is needed to get the ball rolling, and the child engaged enough to learn to read.


Incentives should be something small. Something that is meaningful to the child, otherwise you will not get any buy in. Examples and ideas for possible incentives are stickers, Pokemon or other collectable/game cards, temporary tattoos, game/screen time (think 10 minutes of Minecraft), or anything else that would motivate your child to sit down and give 15 good minutes of reading practice.


Note: Incentives are not bribing. A child who refuses to do anything unless rewarded is in desperate need of an attitude adjustment. This is not what I am promoting or encouraging. On the contrary, an incentive should be something the child may look forward to once hard work has been completed. Setting clear expectations with regard to incentives are essential. Review and remind your child of these expectations as necessary. The best incentives are presented after the child has already begun this program and is in need of some motivation to keep going. Incentives should not be given every day, lest they lose their novelty. Incentives can easily become a slippery slope, where children begin to believe that they must be rewarded if they are to put forth an effort toward any task. That is not the purpose of an incentive.


When to Give Incentives


When the child has displayed significant perseverance. Perhaps they have struggled to read a book and despite feeling discouraged, didn’t give up and finished the book.


When a child displays significant responsibility. For example, they consistently (3+ instances in a row) choose to read on their own accord, instead of another activity.


Any circumstance that you feel warrants an incentive, usually after a major accomplishment, reaching a major goal, or overcoming great difficulty.


As you can see, incentives are not necessarily everyday occurrences. Furthermore, they should be phased out as your child becomes a fluent reader.


#homeschool, #incentives, #positivediscipline, #parenting

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