Using Candy and Ice Cream As Motivation or Reward?

Lindsey - posted on 08/18/2015 ( 6 moms have responded )

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I am looking for ways to help encourage my 12-year-old stepdaughter to do certain things (keep room clean, put away her clean laundry correctly, do homework willingly, use good table manners, no "sass" talk, etc.). My husband and I honestly aren't fans of giving an allowance, nor do we have that extra money. However she needs something to motivate her and we also want to avoid as many power struggles and arguments as possible.

Being 12, we feel she is too old for a sticker/rewards chart. Maybe not, but that is how we feel. However, she does LOVE candy, chocolate and ice cream. She is highly, highly fond of sweets. We have to limit her or not bring it into the house even. Often she begs us to take her out to get treats at fast-food places, which we rarely do. Then she pouts, naturally. It is as if we have offended her in some terrible way.

I put on my thinking cap this morning though, and I'm wondering if rewarding her for being obedient and helpful with sweets would be worth trying? I'm not sure what type of system would work, but I was thinking that taking her out for a big treat at a restaurant could be a weekend thing after a really awesome week. Thoughts?

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Dove - posted on 08/18/2015

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I would NOT use food as a reward. That's a good way that eating disorders can get started. Doing the right thing should be its own reward. Perhaps getting things done fast enough and w/ enough cooperation means she has time for a TV show or to play a game w/ you guys.

♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 08/18/2015

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Holy Cow, Raye, you just listed our chore payment list when I was a kid! LMAO...I told my kids that was a very reasonable way for them to earn money around the house (except I did raise the amounts a bit...LOL...I was a teen 30 years ago, and 25 cents went a heck of a lot further then)

I agree with the others: Food as a 'reward' is not a good idea. This is how eating disorders start.

You say you don't have a lot of extra money, but you DO spend money on junk food, and you must occasionally purchase things that aren't necessary (we ALL do). My suggestion would be to start a chore payment chart, assign a REASONABLE value to each chore (trust me, 25 cents isn't a fair value in this day/age/economy). You'll find that she's more willing to help if rewarded, and then SHE can choose how to spend what she earns.

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Dove - posted on 08/18/2015

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One other important thing to remember... she is 12. As a woman myself and the mother of two girls who are almost 14 I have come to the conclusion that hormones are EVIL. lol Some of the times that she doesn't care about the praise or it triggers a negative response... could very well be hormone related. Not that hormones are ever an 'excuse' for bad behavior, but sometimes understanding where it comes from can help you realize that it's not personal against you. ;)

Lindsey - posted on 08/18/2015

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Dove, we so wish she saw doing things correctly as satisfying and rewarding in and of itself. It's rare she feels that way though. She does not enjoy putting forth the effort. Often I feel she has to know, "What's in it for me? What do I get in return?" She's coming around in some ways, but she has a long way to go.

Raye, I praise and thank her for sure, but probably not enough. This is because she shrugs it off or acts like she doesn't want to hear it. It's strange too that there are times when she's praised, that the praise seems to trigger some type of negative behavior almost immediately. It's hard to understand.
I do take pride in having a clean home, room, and clothes put away. She says that I am either "too neat", "clean too much", or "OCD" when I try to talk with her about it. Maybe this is because her mother does not keep a clean home. My SD does a lot of the cleaning and upkeep around her mom's. Her mom claims she gives her chores to keep SD busy and occupied.
And somehow you must've have known why we aren't all for giving her an allowance. Because, 9 times out of 10, she spends any money she gets on birthday/Christmas on candy, gum, or a toy for the dog at her mother's house. But you know, those small amounts will be treated differently that a big $10 or $20 bill. I'll talk with my hubby about it. Thanks for the idea!

Dove - posted on 08/18/2015

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Oh... one thing I did when my finances were VERY unstable (and I paid for everything in cash)... every time I went to Walmart or somewhere and got single dollar bills in change I would come home and stick those dollars in an envelope. Then when I wanted my kids to do extra chores beyond the normal... I would pay them a dollar for it.

Raye - posted on 08/18/2015

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How often do you praise her for doing things on her own? Do you praise her or say thank you (not sarcastically) for doing things after she's told (even told multiple times)? Are you a role-model to her, showing pride in having your own room clean and laundry put away? Does your husband back you up when you ask her to do things, so she knows that a request from you is the same as if it came from him?

You say you can't afford an allowance, but yet you can afford junk food? In my opinion letting her earn the money, for her to spend on candy if that's her wish, could be an important lesson in finances. She would have to do the work and save for things she would want, and determine what things are worthy of her hard-earned cash. If she has to choose between spending her money to go to a movie with friends, buy the newest brand-name something or other, or buy candy, she might respect the value of money and how to put off immediate wants for long-term benefits.

Allowances don't have to be a lot of money. When I was a teen, my mom's pay schedule was $0.25 for putting laundry in the wash, $0.25 for putting it in the dryer, and $0.75 for folding and putting away. Dishes were $0.75 for washing and $0.50 for drying and putting away (we didn't have a dishwasher). If you start out small, and she seems motivated by it, then win-win. Maybe you could still throw in a special dinner/dessert after a really good week. And keep up the praise and saying thank you, even if she's earning money for it. It will help her feel good about herself.

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