It is said that there are basically two ways by which a child can be motivated to do what is required of him or her. There is the so-called negative motivation through punishment and there is the positive motivation through the rewards system. In creating a rewards system, parents or the adults responsible for instilling discipline in children will be teaching them to check themselves to earn privileges.
When talking with children, it is of utmost importance to make everything crystal-clear according to their level of thinking. Adults cannot presume that their words will be understood in the way they want it to be. It is impossible to set up a system that is not fully understood by the very people for which it was created for.
The idea is to make children want to do good voluntarily without creating little monsters that will only do what is required if and when there is a promised reward. There is a big difference between doing good as motivated by rewards and dong good only because of the promised reward. This is the main caveat in this behavior modification style.
A rewards system must have attainable requirements, simply meaning that the task required to receive the reward or privilege is actually doable. Providing for conditions that are clearly beyond the capability and understanding of the child defeats the purpose. Repeated failures will only result to frustration and much disappointment.
Requiring a 7 year- old child for example to clean his room from top to bottom just to earn the privilege of having an extra hour or so to watch his favorite show is clearly impossible. Asking him instead to return toys and other things in his room to their proper places is certainly more realistic. The degree of responsibility is increased in proportion to age and actual capability of children.
Children are smart enough to know if they will be able to wiggle out of an agreement. Parents should also be able to determine if and when certain modifications in the system is necessary to encourage the children to comply. It is up to the parents to send the message that purposeful defiance will not be tolerated.
It is best for the children to be trained to do what is proper with the end goal of raising responsible adults. Consistency is an area in which most parents like me flounder. Sometimes the urge to just let our children off easy seems to be a much simpler option. But then I think of the future and just try harder. It really is a tricky thing to be a parent.