Rewards can be a powerful tool with which to help motivate your child. The older she is, the more sophisticated and long-term the rewards can be.
There are a variety of techniques you can use, but there are also some common rules for making them effective.
1. Accentuate the positive. Highlight your child's successes, not her failures. If she doesn't achieve her target, find something encouraging to say, rather than emphasizing that she has failed to earn her reward. For example: 'No, you didn't sleep all through the night, but you were up one less time than the night before, and I'm sure you'll manage it tonight.'
2. Be consistent. Don't keep changing what your child has to do to achieve her reward, or start adding extra conditions, such as 'I know you slept all night long, but now I want you to eat your breakfast as well or you won't get your star.'
3. Don't punish. Do not threaten to take her reward away once she has earned it or you will undermine her achievement.
4. Be organized. If you have promised your child a treat if she achieves her target, make sure you have it to hand in the morning. IOUs are not particularly appealing to young children.
5. Think small. A string of small rewards is generally more effective than one large one.
Decide which of the following techniques is likely to appeal most to your child, and then put it into practice:
- Praise. Don't you like being told when you've done something well? So will your child!
- Cuddles. Never underestimate the power of a cuddle - all it costs is your time.
- Star chart. Effective from around the age of 2 years: every time your child goes straight to bed or sleeps through, she gets a star. Pin up her chart in the kitchen where she can see it, and so that she can show off her achievements to visitors. After a certain number of stars, you could reward her with a small present.
- Reward box. Useful for children who think they are too old for star charts. Leave a small shoebox under your child's bed: if she achieves her target, slip in a small reward for her to discover in the morning. If she doesn't stay quiet during the night, it will remain disappointingly empty.
- Special treat. Great for children aged 5 years and up, who can see the point of working towards a long-term goal. Agree on a treat that appeals to her, such as inviting her friends over for tea, if she sleeps well for a week.