There are ways to use rewards that will work with 
Oppositional Defiant Disorder and difficult children, 
but it is not the way it is usually taught.

Most parenting programs use rewards as a tradeoff. You 
encourage good behavior by buying it. This works with some 
kids, but just not a child like yours.

But there is a very effective way to use rewards even with 
ODD children.

Here it is….

Rather than using rewards as a trade off, you can use them 
as a way to reinforce good behavior once it occurs.

Here is how it works:

Let’s say you are running behind and you need to get 
dinner ready and fold the laundry, but there is just not
time to do both.

Cindy, your preteen daughter is around and doesn’t appear too 
busy. But Cindy doesn’t like folding laundry. However, 
you happen to know that there is a certain DVD she wants 
you to rent.

So you can approach this two ways.

The first is the straight reward for compliance approach.

“Cindy, I really need help with the laundry. I’ll tell 
you what. You know that DVD you want us to get? If you 
help me out by folding the laundry I’ll call Dad and ask 
him to pick it up on the way home.”

There it is, a straight business deal. Now Cindy has to 
decide if it is worth a DVD to bother with the laundry or 
if she would rather do something else.

Here is the way you can use rewards to help you.

The same scenario but this time your approach is a bit 

“Cindy, I am really stuck. Your father is coming home 
soon and need to get dinner on the table. Would you be 
able to take a few minutes and help me by folding the 

Here you are making a plea for help. You are making a one 
time request, appealing to your child’s sense of good and 
giving her the chance and the choice on her own to be the 

It is much more likely that she will help than in the first case.

When Cindy finishes you say to her,

“Cindy, you’re a life saver. I really appreciate you coming 
through for me when I need you. I want to do something 
nice for you. How about it if I call your father and ask 
him on the way home to pick up that DVD you wanted to see?”

Here is the major difference between the two approaches.

In the first case, the DVD is the pay off. It is a 
straight business deal.

Whether Cindy says yes or no, it is a cold calculated decision 
based upon her perceived value of a DVD.

It will have no ramifications for future compliance 
except for the fact that you have fixed the price of 
laundry folding to be one DVD.

You will not get away with less than that ever again.

In the second case, you also paid for her help. But you 
bought it with your appreciation.

Now appreciation is a wonderful thing. You feel great 
when you give it. Your daughter feels wonderful when she 
receives it and at the end of it all you feel closer to each other.

You should be ready to pay your daughter with appreciation 
all day long.

The DVD became a token symbol of that appreciation, but it 
wasn’t the currency.

In addition to receiving the appreciation and the DVD, 
Cindy might begin to realize that when she obeys you and 
helps you, that on occasion she might receive surprise 

She is much more likely to help in the future because 
there will be a big emotional payoff and an occasional 
tangible surprise.

Plus, if you couch your request in such a way that it makes 
her feel good about helping and lets her be in charge, it no 
longer becomes a question of who is in control or who is the 

If you use this very simple approach slowly and often, then 
you will see some really big changes in behavior over a period of 

But more than that you will strengthen your relationship 
with your son or daughter, which is a reward for both of you.

This is something that neither one of you can buy.


    Anthony Kane, MD
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          Here is a very common mistake parents make.

          It is called:

          Giving Rewards

          Who hasn’t heard of giving rewards as a way to motivate a child to behave?

          This is another great behavioral technique, scientifically proven to be effective 100% of the time… that is, in white rats, guinea pigs, and other small laboratory animals.

          The Theory

          The idea is a simple one.

          Everyone wants to do what benefits him. So if you give rewards for the behavior you wish to see, it will benefit him to behave that way. 

          That’s how it is supposed to work, right?

          So here is where the system breaks down.

          Problem 1: Not Practical

          First, often this approach is just not practical.

          Sometimes your child just has to behave.  It is the rule and that’s it. There i s no room for negotiation.

          When the teacher walks into the class, you can’t expect her to cut a private deal with each of her twenty-five students to get the kids to settle down.

          That is not how your child’s world operates.

          That’s not how your world operates. When was the last time the IRS sent you a thank you note for not cheating on your taxes?

          Problem 2: Your Child in not a Rodent

          Another problem is that children are smart.

          When you reward kids, they catch on very quickly and start holding out for more. Then the rewards start escalating.

          So it might only take a sticker to get 3 year old Jimmy to not ride his tricycle in the street. By the time Jimmy is ten it might cost you a new video game to get him to wear his helmet when he rides his bike. So when he is seventeen what are you going to buy him if he doesn’t drive drunk, a Mustang convertible?

          Problem 3: Some Things You Can’t Buy

          A third problem is, that when it comes to a naturally defiant child, there just isn’t a big enough reward.

          Let’s look at it from Brad’s point of view.

          Brad is a twelve-year-old ODD child, who refuses to take out the trash. His parents just decided to improve his behavior by offering rewards for compliance.

          So what does Brad get when he obeys?

          He gets whatever trinket his parents have agreed to give him. Let’s assume they are astute enough to get him something that Brad will value.

          So on the surface the deal makes sense. If Brad takes out the trash for a given period of time he will get something that is of greater value than the inconvenience of taking out the trash.

          But it is not just bother and inconvenience that prevents Brad from neglecting the trash.

          Every time Brad “forgets” to take out the trash and lets it pile up, he gets the satisfaction of knowing that his parents can’t make him do anything.  He gets the feeling that he is the one in control and that no one can tell him what to do.  He gets to avenge every injustice, either real or imagined, that his parents have ever done to him.

          How is Brad’s mom going to top that?

          There are just some things that money can’t buy.

          These are three reasons why rewards do not work to get ODD children to change their behavior. That is not to say they never work.

          If you find something that you want your child to do and it doesn’t matter that much to your child, he’ll do it and take the ice cream cone.

          But on big issues… the ones that really bother you, you are not going to be able to buy compliance, at least not for long.

          Does that mean you cannot use rewards?

          Not exactly.

          There is a way to use rewards with your difficult defiant child or teenager, but it is not the way it is usually done.

          I will share with you the proper way to use rewards soon.