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Heidi LPC
Heidi LPC, Psychotherapist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 278
Experience:  Licensed Professional Counselor
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I need an effective rewards and punishment system that I can

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I need an effective rewards and punishment system that I can stick to. I've tried dozens of different approaches (self created), but nothing ever sticks! We are all pretty forgetful, but then its so hard to motivate or punish effectively! My daughter is trying to fall asleep in her own room by herself, whats a good system to encourage this and what would be a good reward? What is a good punishment system?

Heidi LPC :

Hi there! My name is XXXXX XXXXX I am a licensed psychotherapist and certified teacher; I hope to assist you with your question today!

Heidi LPC :

First, how old is your daughter? This will give me a better idea of how to help you... but even without that information, let me give you a bit of information that might give you some suggestions.

Heidi LPC :

Let's start with your question: you asked for a "punishment system". For those of us who work with children, we always prefer to focus on the positive, so for our purposes here, we will talk about positive behavior intervention and support.

Heidi LPC :

When we are trying to motivate a behavior change, we want to make the reward something that the child chooses for themselves, if they are old enough to do so. So, if your child is older, having them come up with a plan is the best approach. Using a sticker chart on the refrigerator is a good place to start--- and any positive reward system can only be used for a week or two before you change it. Kids can't continue to be motivated towards the same thing for much longer. In school, something that works is a chart that reflects the season, or the child's interests: Each time the students demonstrate the target behavior, we put a paper apple on an apple tree bulletin board, and when each branch is full, we go to the apple orchard. Or, if the kids want to watch a movie as a treat, each time they listen well or help one another, they put a piece of popcorn in a movie bucket. When it is full, we watch the film.

Heidi LPC :

Sleep is a sensitive subject, depending on the child's age. One of my 3 children wasn't in his bed all night until he was 5 years old--- and we didn't mind having him in a sleeping bag wherever he felt safe. Once he got a bit older, he wanted to decorate his room with a sports team, and along with a night-light, a timer on a TV and his sisters agreeing to keep their doors open, it just naturally happened. When kids are ready, they will just move towards more independence, generally speaking.

Heidi LPC :

So, this initial answer is just meant to give you some food for thought; I will wait for more information from you and we can continue to work on it until you feel satisfied with the answer! I will check back when I am able... until then, thank you for your question and for using the site today!

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

thank you for the answer. At least I feel better knowing that my constant change in the reward system is not all that unfavorable! We have always done that to keep it interesting!


The problem is that my daughter is now 10 and sleeps with us every night. She is scared of her room. I, unfortunately, went through this with my son and went through the bevy of interventions before ultimately putting him on an anti anxiety medication at age 12 which was like magic. He is 14 now and just weaning off of it. I would like to avoid this with my daughter if at all possible and I do think that her fear is nowhere near as strong as my son's fear was.


With that said, I am well aware of the step system, putting her in a sleeping bag by my bed and then gradually moving it closer to the door and closer to her room using different rewards as she reaches each level, but she does not want to do that. She says this gives her more anxiety, she wants to jump right to "step 5". This is where we are at, there are nights I can not convince her to go to her room to "try", she gets in my bed despite my protests and I don't have the physical strength to struggle with her at this age if I wanted to, so there she will stay. The nights she does go in her room, it is only with my lying down with her, which I would not mind so much except for the fact that nearly every night after I come downstairs to my room, she wakes up and comes down in the middle of the night and I find her in my bed in the morning. When she sleeps with us through the night, she does not wake up, but when she sleeps alone, she almost always wakes up.


She is well motivated through rewards, but then on days she is resisting or not behaving, I feel like I do not have anything to manage this behavior. It seems counter intuitive to take away an earned sticker so I lean toward taking away privileges, but the truth be told, I tend to agree that punishment is not a great motivator, but aside from knowing that whatever she wants will take an extra day to get (no big deal to her), the reward system does not motivate in this regard. For example, she gets a sticker for getting into bed on time on a school night, and she has to wake up very early in the morning 5:30am because we drive my son to high school before she goes to school, but more often that not I am struggling with her to get into bed or stop talking and get to sleep and then I literally have to drag or carry her out of bed in the morning. When she is doing this, she does not seem to care if she is not getting a sticker for that night as I imagine she knows she will just get it another night and that's not a big deal to wait an extra day for her reward, but the consequence is that she can not wake up for school and I am constantly getting very upset and lecturing her about responsibility (which I know is very counter productive!).


If you can help with either of these issues, I would be very appreciative!

Ok--- thanks for the additional information, Michelle!! Now we can work on it!


So, first I would say that a bit of this could possibly be learned behavior; if she saw that your son was fearful and it was a big enough issue that gave him a great deal of attention, she may have followed in his footsteps... just absorbing the concept that sleeping in one's own room is scary. Important note: what we give attention to is what we will naturally see more of with kids... so if she gets your attention and some power with this undesirable behavior, it is working for her. You have now decided that it has gone on long enough and now is a good time to end it. As a positive reward, use one-on-one time spent with you doing something she likes. This way, she will get positive attention from you, which is something all kids need.... secure attachment and bonding time is a very valuable tool in parenting.


But, more importantly, we have to identify where her fears are coming from, what they are, and pull them out, one by one, at their roots.


I'm sure you've asked her what she is afraid of; it may be ghosts, monsters, etc... it could be that she thinks someone will attack her, or just the sounds frighten her. Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT) would be very helpful to her--- to help her see that her thoughts are within her control and to teach her ways to change them and control the anxiety she feels; anxiety meds might also help, and it will be up to you both to make a plan together. If she can verbalize what exactly she is afraid will happen, you can then give her evidence that this is not true... for instance, if she thinks there are ghosts in her room, ask her if she is afraid of her room in the daytime, and if not, you can prove that it isn't actually her room, it's just the darkness along with the scary stories she is telling herself in her mind. To counter-attack those stories, make up a different story--- a positive one--- with friendly angels that are actually there to protect her, and you can name them, and make them wear silly costumes and sing silly songs, etc... and help her to see that she is creating scary pictures in her mind when, in fact, she has the power to create FUN ones, instead!!


You can begin this process by confidently deciding for yourself that you must now resolve the issue, and commit to following through to the end of it. Start by telling her that due to her age, it is now time to end this issue once and for all---- either with some changes to her room--- or with therapy/medication. Ask her what would make her more comfortable in her room, and if it is a new theme, an over-bed tent, a special lava lamp, soothing music in headphones, a book on tape she can listen to while in bed while she watches the lava lamp, a tv to watch and keep her mind busy until she dozes off... (and don't worry--- it won't keep her up all night--- she will fall asleep, and it won't permanently harm her to do this temporarily, just as a tool of comfort while you are working to ease her anxiety).


Tell her that you will allow her to decide the route to take. If she decides on changing the room, go for it. If she resists, make an appointment with a therapist. Any amount of surface rewards/punishments will just give unwanted attention to the unwanted behavior, instead of resolving the underlying issue, which is her irrational fear. The mindset and the fear of getting the jitters, a sick stomach, etc... from the anxiety is sometimes helped with medication, but I highly recommend that some CBT would be very helpful in resolving this issue.


I hope you find some of these suggestions helpful--- if not, just let me know and I will keep on working with you on it. Please let me know how this sounds to you... and, thank you for the additional information--- it makes a world of difference to get a full picture! Smile

Hi there, Michelle!! Just checking back in to see if you had a chance to read my last reply; let me know if you found it helpful? Thanks much... and hope to hear back from you soon!! Smile



Heidi LPC and other Parenting Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

THIS is a fantastic suggestion, something she always craves, and something I have never thought of! Thank you! "As a positive reward, use one-on-one time spent with you doing something she likes. This way, she will get positive attention from you, which is something all kids need.... secure attachment and bonding time is a very valuable tool in parenting."


I have already been the entire route with changing the room, the over the bed tent (worked for awhile but then it was getting "stuffy") and an assortment of cool lamps and night lights! She says if she had a canopy bed (something to make her feel enclosed) that might work, so I am going to look into something on that end as well as the CBT! Thank you! I am very impressed with your answers and your level of detail! I will definitely have more questions for you!


I am going to send you a separate question to ask if you can help with another issue! Thanks



Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Heidi, I have a major issue that affects my children, and I am the root of the problem, but really need some guidance and direction to "fix" it We have a very busy schedule and I myself have ADD, run a home based business and am always "busy" and trying to remember what I am "forgetting" to do! The issue is with time management. I am so busy that I forget to remind and make sure my children practice the violin, exercise, brush teeth, get to bed early enough to read & more. Can you help? I could not find a way to ask you this question under a new question because I can only ask you a new question once my old question has been closed out, so if you say yes, and after you have replied to this, I can select "ask a new question" thanks!

It is not a problem at all--- I am happy to help! Making task lists is the number one thing that is going to help your family to stay on top of the their responsibilities. There should be lists hanging on the refrigerator for each person to read and review each day--- and that way, all you have to do is be sure everyone checks the list! I would also suggest that a consistent weekly schedule/calendar on one of those whiteboards/dry erase boards should also be displayed in the home, and each child can write down their practices, lessons, etc... on the days they take place. This calendar can also include chore days for each person, if they have specific jobs to do each week. If they do their chores, they put a check next to the job, and then on Sundays they get their allowance for following through on their tasks. Make the schedule and follow it each day with a system in place to stay organized, ie. backpacks should always be packed the night before, homework should always be done as soon as kids get home, or immediately after dinner, etc... Consistency in making a schedule and following it makes everyone feel more secure, and visible reminders such as lists and calendars are most helpful to call attention to what needs to be done! I hope this helps--- maybe this weekend, a trip to the office supply store for some calendars and such will be in order! :-)

Also, thank you for the positive rating and the bonus!! I didn't see your other reply until just now--- please let me know if the "date with Mom" project works out!! Have a great evening--- and let me know if the dry erase calendar idea works, as well!!

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