Toddlers and Praise and Rewards…Oh My!


Toddlers, Praise and rewards blog (3)

As parents, we are always busy looking for the best way to motivate our children to accomplish tasks or to behave properly.  We want our children to learn responsibility and respect.  We also want them to develop a healthy sense of self-esteem and pride.  But how do we go about encouraging them in these tasks or desired behaviors?

Children, especially toddlers, want to be independent and start doing things for themselves.  As parents, our goal is to guide our children to make good choices and to ultimately take care of themselves.  This is why any program that helps children to be successful at accomplishing these tasks or being responsible for their own behaviors will lead to increased self-esteem and pride in their accomplishments.

The BEST motivator for a child is this sense of accomplishment and pride.  I remember each of my children seeking me out at award assemblies at school or looking back to see if I was watching when they were able to ride a bike.  Smiling ear to ear, so proud of what they had accomplished.   As a parent, the BEST REWARDS you can give your child are PRAISE and affection for every little success or a job well done.

Most new tasks will take time to master and the praise for trying while they are “in training” is just as important.  This will help to motivate them to continue to reach their goal.

Make sure that the praise is specific and that your don’t praise every little thing.  Children will know when you are just saying, “good job,” and don’t really mean it.

Take the time to give them your undivided attention.  Make eye contact, give them a hug or a high five and  say,  “I like the way  you tied your shoe with out getting frustrated,” or “that is a beautiful picture you made for me. I am going to put it on the wall right now!”  Stand back and soak up the beautiful smile you will see on your child’s face!

Praise, high fives, hugs

Most children will be motivated by some kind of reward.  As parents, we know our children better than anyone. When we went them to do a certain task or we are trying to help shape behavior, we can try different rewards or methods to see what will work best for our children.  Some children like small tangible rewards like stickers or small toys.  Others respond better to treats or special activities.

I also recommend that you engage your child in helping to create this reward program.  Ask them what they would like to have as a reward.  Let them be part of making the chart or putting a star on the chart or a check mark on the list of chores when it is done.

Visual Charts are a MUST  so that they can see what is expected of them or they can be reminded of what you want them to do.  It may be a checklist, calendar or pictures that show them what to do.

(chore charts available on and potty training charts available on

Many parents are successful with some sort of token system.  (some use sticker charts or marbles in a jar etc…)  Children like to see their progress toward a goal and when they can visualize this progress, it motivates them to keep going.  If they can’t see the progress, it may seem like an eternity until they get a reward and they may become discouraged.

It is important that you don’t make the goal too difficult, especially in the beginning.  If  they are able to earn a reward soon after starting a program, they will feel good about themselves and “buy into” the program.

Whether it is potty training, doing chores around the house,  or a specific behavior you are trying to reinforce, you will be amazed at how well your child will make progress when they are allowed to be part of their own learning process.

Remember that when trying to encourage independence and good behaviors, your child is in training.  As in learning anything new, it will take time.  Expect setbacks or mistakes.  Think of these as a way to teach your child that everyone makes mistakes,  and that is ok.  It is how we all learn.   How you react to those mistakes or little accidents will teach them a lot about interacting with others.  Always encourage and praise and never reprimand a child that is trying to learn something new.

As parents, we have such an awesome responsibility in raising our children to become confident, independent, caring, respectful and well-adjusted human beings.  If we accept the challenge, and we do it right, there is no greater reward  than that!

By  Jill Leech


About pottytots

I am a mom of three that was having quite a challenge potty training my third child. I tried everything from books on the market to bribing my little one. As a teacher, I knew that I should have something visual that a little one could understand, so I drew my first little potty chart with the 6 essential steps to potty training. When I made the little girl look just like my daughter, she LOVED it. Believing that learning should be FUN, I added some potty humor and some silly songs and we found a formula for success. When I started sharing this idea and making potty charts for friends and family, I knew we had a great idea for a potty training program that could help others. Potty Tots was born!
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