Is It Okay to Reward My Teen for Good Behavior?


Rewarding your teen for doing something good can eventually start to feel like you are bribing them to behave properly, especially if, when there is not promise a reward, they misbehave. You want to reward your children when they do something right, but you might not want to train them to believe that they will always get a reward any time they do any little thing well. Are you asking, “Is it okay to reward my teen for good behavior?” Absolutely! As with all things, however, moderation is key.

When Should I Reward My Teen for Good Behavior?

This will ultimately depend on you and your teenager. Some parents will save rewards for situations in which a negative behavior has been replaced by a good one. For example, if your teen used to slack on his schoolwork but has since put special effort into completing his homework and studying for tests, this might be the ideal time to give your teen some sort of reward.

In other situations, you might simply want to give him a reward if he does something good, especially if there was an opportunity for him to make the wrong decision and he, instead, made the right one. Why is this important? Not only does this kind of positive reinforcement encourage your teenager to continue making good decisions, it also shows that you are paying attention to his life and are recognizing his efforts to do the right thing at the right time.

What Kinds of Rewards Can I Give My Teen?

Knowing what kind of reward to provide to your teenager can be the biggest roadblock when it comes to rewarding them for good behavior. Too grand of a gesture will send the wrong message. For example, you probably do not want to buy them a car for bumping up a B in English to an A. This will become the beginning of an unsustainable pattern. It’s important to also mention the other side of the coin, however.

Too small of a reward and your teen might not first, understand how proud you are of him and second, have any motivation to continue trying to achieve. A big rewards might not be a good fit for a small improvement, but it might be just the thing for, for example, a teen who usually slacks in school, but worked really hard for an entire year and got straight As. Here are some rewards you might consider for your teen:

1. A favorite meal

Especially if you have a large family or very picky eaters in your family, your teen might not get to have his favorite meal very often. If he did really well in a class that he usually does not succeed in, why not take him out to his favorite restaurant or cook him his favorite meal? This is a great way to give him some individualized attention and to even show other children that hard work pays off in your family.

2. Extend their car privileges

If they are already driving and have been wanting to use the car one night, this could be the perfect reward for good behavior. While you do not necessarily want to always tie car usage to good behavior (this could encourage your teen to act out, just to manipulate you into giving him the car when he does do something good), this is still a great way to reward a teen.

3. Social time

My parents hated having their teenaged kids’ friends in the house—not because they hated our friends, but because it meant a lot of mess and a lot of time on their part. Letting us have our friends over at the house, instead of just going out or going over to their houses was always a special treat. If you have a similar rule, letting your kids have their friends at your house or simply extending their curfew could be a reward for good behavior.

4. A cellphone

If your teenager does not get have a cellphone, this might be a good reward for doing something extra special. Remember, you do not want to set the precedent that they will get something as big as a cellphone every time they do any old good thing, but it could be a reasonable way to reward them for doing something above and beyond.

5. A new privilege

For example, when my little sister boosted her grades during her junior year of high school, my parents gave her free reign to decorate her bedroom. She made it her special place. This does not have to be expensive—a can of paint and a new blanket for the bed could be enough to really make that room feel like their own place.

6. New clothes

While you already know how important it is for your teen to have clothes, there is likely some item of clothing that they haven’t gotten, either because it is too expensive, or they just bought a new pair of jeans or a new t-shirt. If you’re looking for a way to reward your teen for good behavior, a new item of clothing might be just the thing.

7. Something for their hobby

Does your teen love to read? Why not take them to the bookstore and let them grab something new to read? Is he a gamer? Let him pick out a new game. Does she play soccer? How about some new cleats? This might be on the “big reward” end of the scale, depending on what your teen’s hobby is, but it can still be a good way to encourage good behavior.