McGrew's Miscellanea

Rewarding Good Behavior


One of the tasks involved in running a club-type youth program is teaching discipline. Unfortunately, most treatments of this subject focus on proper responses to bad behavior. While this is an important aspect of teaching discipline, you must also reward good behavior to teach discipline effectively.

Here are some ideas for rewarding good behavior in a club-type youth program. They are most appropriate with elementary-aged children. Feel free to adapt any of these ideas to your own situation. If you know of or come up with any new ideas, I'd like to hear about them.

Table of Contents

Behavior Candle

I got this idea from the rec.scouting newsgroup. Buy a candle that will burn for the entire duration of several meetings. At the beginning of each meeting, light the candle. If the kids become unruly and/or disrespectful, blow out the candle. When the candle has been consumed, the kids get some sort of reward.

There seem to be three approaches to relighting the candle:

Pick the one with which you feel the most comfortable, and that you think will be most effective with your club members.

Bead Jar

My wife came up with this idea for her Pioneer Girls club. The basic concept here is similar to the behavior candle. Each meeting, as part of taking attendance and other normal paperwork, record how many members and guests are present, how many have their books, how many know the memory verse for this week, how many are in uniform, etc. The specific criteria depend on what behaviors you want to reward. Based on your criteria, add the appropriate number of beads to the jar. Once the boys fill up the bead jar, they get a reward.

Carefully consider the number of beads given for attendance, as compared to the number given for other bahaviors. If mere attendance receives half the total number of beads possible, the jar will fill up fairly steadily. If attendance is rewarded less, then the jar will fill up more slowly and/or irratically, unless your club members are really gung-ho.

When the kids are being disruptive and inattentive, start regaining their attention normally. After a few moments, start counting. When they are once again attentive, stop counting. That number is the number of beads you'll remove from the jar. After your reach 10 or 20, you may want to count faster, or count by 2.

We've found that "pony beads" work well. They are inexpensive plastic beads that are roughly cylindrical, about 1/3 inch in diameter by 1/4 inch high, with a 1/6 inch hole. You can use some other kind of bead, or other small objects like marbles, ball-bearings, nuts, bolts, nasturtium seeds, or pennies.

Buying the jar is the last thing you should do. First, decide what kind of beads (or other tokens) you want to use. Then create the reward schedule, determining how many beads are earned for what. Then decide how frequently your club members should be able to fill the jar. Once you know all that, you can figure out how big a full jar should be, based on the number of beads a full jar should hold.

Suggested Rewards

The actual rewards used will depend on your budget, the ages of your kids, your group's likes and dislikes, the amount of time available to you, etc. Here are some suggestions you may want to consider.

There are a couple of factors to balance. The reward should be something significant enough to appeal to your group as a long-term reward. The reward should not be so significant that the club leaders burn out.

Also, don't make every major event something that the club members have to earn by showing good behavior. Regular club activities are the cake, and these rewards are the icing.