Your kid’s health is important, but you can’t always be there to be sure they take good care of it. Incentivizing them to take care of their own health, however, is a great way to help them start engaging in good health practices all on their own. Over time, those practices become habits and habits are hard to break. That is true of both good habits and bad habits. Here are 4 great ways to incentivize your kids to take good care of their own health.
Give Them a Gold Star
It is a funny trait of human behavior that no matter how old or young we are, we all seem to love getting a “gold star.” Even adults love getting some kind of small “kudos” for a job well done, as Apple recognized when they instituted “activity rings” on their Apple watches. When you complete an activity task like standing once an hour for 12 hours or getting in 30 minutes of activity, the watch rewards you with a closed ring. Something as simple as creating a chart that your child can put a gold star or fun sticker on each time they complete a task like taking their vitamins or brushing their teeth can incentivize good daily habits and behaviors.
Provide Larger Incentives for Hitting a Number of Daily Targets
Eventually, the thrill of putting a star or sticker on a chart will wear off and it will become easier and easier to forego daily practices. In that case, it’s time to haul out the big guns and provide larger rewards for chronic good behavior. You can plan special events, trips or outings for completing 30 straight days of good health practices or even larger incentives for longer time frames such as achieving at least 80% of their daily health practices over a period of 6 months. While you don’t want to just award them no matter what, you also want to do your best to help them actually achieve their goals and receive the bigger incentives.
Associate Uncomfortable or Scary Events with Fun Events
Whether it’s going out for ice cream or taking a trip to the zoo, always plan something fun after events that might be a little more scary or nerve wracking for them. For children, things like getting shots or going to the dentist can be scary. Associating those events with fun things like always going for ice cream after or even feeding ducks at the park can help associate those tasks with positive memories and make them look forward to them rather than dreading them. When you help create fun memories for them around things like going to the doctor or dentist, they will also be more likely to engage in these practices even when they are adults.
Let Them Do It with You
Whether it’s brushing your teeth together or taking a walk together, whatever they do with you, they will look forward to more than doing it alone. Rituals that you share together will have far more meaning than just telling them to do something on their own. If you have a chart that they fill in after they complete certain tasks, do it with them each day and make a special event out of it. You might also benefit from letting them plan for you. Have them search Google for something like “salinas CA dentistry” and help you find a dentist. They can take you to the appointment and “take you out” for a treat afterward.
Kids are actually fairly easy to incentivize because they respond to a wide variety of incentives. From simple praise to a simple gold star, there are a great number of ways to encourage your kids to engage in good health practices. Setting those habits now will also help ensure they adhere to them for a lifetime.
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. Follow Brooke on Twitter @BrookeChaplan.