Menu Close

Tangible Rewards for Good Behavior?

{This post contains affiliate links. It’s okay, it has nothing to do with the post, but the law requires me to “disclose” that top-secret information. Read on}

Market Spice Tea Update:

Sharon Burroughs, my random number generator picked YOU as the winner of a box of Market Spice Tea! Please email me with your mailing info and I (okay, Amazon) will pop this in the mail for you!

Kindergarten Update:

Apollo is still enjoying school. Unfortunately, I got a call earlier this week to come pick him up. He was complaining that his stomach didn’t feel good and he felt like he was going to throw up. Since another little boy, who sits at his table, had thrown up earlier that day (not around Apollo) the teacher thought it was prudent for me to come get him. That means, he also missed part of his fourth week of school. If you’re keeping track (I am) he hasn’t had a single full week of school yet, due to sickness. 

black and white photo of boy holding a lightsaber

He is doing a lot of counting and adding as he plays…obviously having fun practicing what he is learning at school. He was using his LeapPad Epic last night to “finish the word”. The had words like s_d and he had to fill in the missing sound. I love seeing him connect what he is learning at home with what he is learning at school. 

Question of the Day

So, dear friends, I have a parenting question for you…Avi has Oppositional Defiant Disorder. No, this isn’t a label professionals put on bratty kids who need more discipline. It is an actual disorder. It would be fair to say that Avi suffers from it. Suffers, because it is unpleasant for her, as well as those around her and it makes it extremely difficult for her to maintain friendships. 

Her psychologist has suggested we reward her lack of disrespect by letting her earn something (Avi suggested a DVD player or iPod touch or iPad. We said, “ah….no”. She suggested a new LEGO set…I said maybe.)

Basically, we are supposed to set up a chart where she gets tangibly rewarded for not being disrespectful and not arguing…I feel very conflicted about this idea.

On one hand, I understand helping her get rid of an old habit and replacing it with a new one. We had great success in getting Avi and Tucker to stop sucking their fingers/thumb this way. Never mind that a few weeks later Avi started sucking her fingers again. I reminded her of our deal and she said, “It doesn’t matter…I lost my LEGO pieces anyway“. For the record, we were persistent, and she no longer sucks her fingers.

On the other hand, I feel that it is sending the wrong message to my other kids, when she gets a LEGO set for not being disrespectful. Yes, this is an area she needs to work on (so does Tucker) but do I really need to reward it with something tangible?

To complicate things in the past, any reference to her good behavior, any positive reenforcement, makes her behavior worse. It is part of the ODD. 

The psychologist has also suggested we reward Mordecai with something tangible (he suggested a trip to McDonald’s; the dr suggested a LEGO mini figure) for not raging. The problem with that is, he goes through good periods where he doesn’t rage or act out. I could reward the heck out of those days or weeks, but that isn’t the issue…the issues is the times he does rage.

So, according to the psychologist, we should set up charts are reward Avi for not being disrespectful and reward Mordecai for not going on a violent ramapage…meanwhile, the other kids who already have to live with this very difficult behavior, of course, get nothing. 

While I *could* set up reward charts for everyone, it seems like a logistical and financial nightmare…

And doesn’t rewarding something like “not being disrespectful” take away the intrinsic  desire to be respectful, just for the sake of being respectful…What is the motivation to behave in the future? 

So what are your thoughts? How have you dealt with difficult behavior in your children? 


  1. Beckie Daniels

    I’m with you. That’s ridiculous to reward a behavior children (and all people) should do anyway. I raised an adopted daughter (now 21) with ODD. I guarantee you, had I rewarded her for not blowing up over nothing, that she would have milked the heck out of that. And the second she got the reward she would have destryed it, laughing in my face. And my other 3 children would have gotten the idea that simple respect, courtesy, and handling anger was something you only do when you can get a present out of it. It wouldnt have worked for my ODD child, and it would have had a negative effect on my others.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      You really hit the nail on the head with this…kids with ODD don’t react like other kids (that’s common sense, right?) It’s not a matter of “rewarding good behavior” of her. She will sabotage that every time…I just have no idea *what* to do…

  2. Cindy

    My thought is that you are an awesome mom and I feel your pain on this one. Having lived for a couple of years with a child with ODD, I know it’s amazingly hard. I’ll be interested in seeing what you decide.
    No help, I know :), but lots of empathy!

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Thank you for your empathy! Not only is this not easy, but I get judgement and dirty looks from other moms all the time. These kids have to be parented differently…I’m just still trying to figure out how…

      • Beckie Daniels

        We once were walking to the car at Wal Mart with our then 10 year old ODD daughter. She was screaming and throwing a fit over something….I don’t even recall what…and a man walking by said to his wife, ” THAT’S what happens when you don’t beat your kids. “

  3. Sarah Rose

    Because of the financial issue, we reward the kids with “family money” (that I made and laminated). and they can use it to buy things from the family store or save it for something bigger to buy a lego set, trip to the movie theater, trip to coffee shop with just mom or dad, etc… They also loose this money with poor behaviour or disrespect. This is the 4th or 5th month and the excitement of it all has worn off, but it is still effective for some of the kids. Let me know if you want more detail of how I organized it all. =)

  4. kristi

    I think I have mentioned before to you the awesome results we have had with our ODD child doing Nero-feedback, we had the same issues and felt the same as you do, about not rewarding. I have found that my child does not respond to the dangling object in the future, it is all about the here and now!! Example the therapist told my child that if he could not argue and be disrespectful for the entire week, he would take him to the treat shop below his office and buy him something. Well that lasted all of about two hours until I said no to something and then the fight was on, sigh. While I would like to say we have it all figured out we have managed to get to the point where when I say no that’s it and he can argue til he’s blue (it has been a good while since a tantrum) and I tell him either stop or he loses XYZ, I count to three and if he is not stopped that item is gone. (TV show before bed, computer privileges, X-box, tablet etc) Now he may lose one or two before he stops and on the occasion that he loses everything (has happened several times) – then he becomes mommy’s chore buddy, and does all of the chores and extra cleaning I can think up, then he has to apologise to me and sometimes write bible versus, or a sorry letter with what can be different next time. The chore thing works best if it is written down in a list and he has to check each one off before earning things back, also that way I am not in his face more telling him what to do. Sometimes if the situation allows for it I walk away, and he can choose to follow or I will walk far enough away but still able to see him, but he is 11 and I do not believe he would run off in an unfamiliar environment, at home I go put myself in time out until he is done and then set up consequences. I have been known to pull over in a parking lot and get out of the car and stand until he is done :0. Best of luck, it is a roller coaster, can’t wait for the teen years, sigh ;(

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Thanks for your thoughtful, detailed reply. You are right, the *only* thing that we have found that ever works for her is taking something away. In her case, loss of the a movie or extra work…I think the key here (and you clarified it for me) it is to have it written and visible.

      The thing about incentives for difficult children is, once they “blow it”, there is no reason to keep trying. For instance, if you say, ‘If you don’t argue all day, you will get xyz’ once they argue, it is all over…

      Hmmm…I have some definite ideas now…

  5. thissquirrelsnest

    I don’t personally deal with this, but I worked for an organization that used this methodology, which included children who had Avi and Mordechai diagnosis. I don’t like the method (applied behavior analysis) but it is very affective in this population of children.

    The reality is that their brains are not wired “normally ” so building positive nueropathways requires a different approach.

    Kids with ODD essentially don’t seem to believe in their own inherent goodness it seems, so they need specific interventions to help them internalize that. Verbal praise can sound either like mockery or an immense amount of pressure when they already feel like failures.

  6. Tara

    Hebrews 4:12 (KJV)
    For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

    God’s Word! Like mega memory work. I’d play it constantly in the home. At bed time. No worldly movies nothing to feed the ungodly behavior! Seriously Renee this is spiritual. God knows! Praying for you. Xo

  7. SueAnn

    I see the dilemma here. I do think there needs to be some attainable goals for Avi and Mordecai. Yes, internal motivation is better but they need outside motivation to build the inside motivation. But something even as big as a Lego set might not be the best hing. I like the family money mentioned above, or something else that is small or build towards a bigger thing. Whatever you do, you can find a way to use for the other kids too. Maybe they have different goals, but the same rewards to meet for the goals.

  8. Mama

    Oh friend! I so get this and have lots of thoughts on this but I don’t know If i can clearly articulate anything helpful in a brief comment. I have mentioned before that I have a son with high functioning Autism. Because he is the oldest of out four children, is younger siblings picked up a lot of behavior issues during their formative years. We’ve tried reward charts off and on over the years with very little success. But just recently over the summer I started one on a whim thinking it would flop within two weeks, like it had in the past but low and behold we actually started seeing success!! I did it with all of our kids, because they each had things they needed to work on. But the one common goal they all had was Using Kind Words…one child struggled more than the others, but it was something they all needed to work on. We had lots of shouting and name calling going on. And I will say four months later we have seen AMAZING progress. But it is A TON of work and you have to really stay on top of it. I totally get your apprehensions about your typically developing children getting squat. It’s a tricky balance. The reality is special needs kids do need special accommodations sometimes…and in you case that might look like a reward system. And you could find ways to bless and validate your other kiddos. But ultimately, you know your kiddos best and if you think a rewards system will not be beneficial then go with your gut, But I so know that helpless feeling of but what DO I do?

    I would love to direct you to a resource and feel free to check it out and ignore it, but we work with a parenting coach, Julie Schrag, she has been hugely instrumental in helping bring about real change in our family. We have been working with her for 3 years.
    She specializes in kids with Autism, but has a wide background in working with children with all kinds of special needs and has vast amounts of experience in working with kids with defiant behavior. She is based out of Washington about 3 hours south of you, but she does phone and Skype appointments for clients who are not local. She is not covered by insurance, but she is the best money we have ever spent! And she is very reasonable and generous with her time. I believe she still offers a free consultation. I went into my very first call with her thinking, “Well she sure sounds amazing, but we how in the world could we ever fit this into out budget?” By the end of the call I was so relieved to have finally found someone who truly “Got it” that I was knew we had to do whatever it took to make it work. Best decision we ever made. Check out her website and see what you think. Feel free to e-mial me if you have any questions : )

    Here is her website:

    Hang in there!!

  9. Anna

    I don’t have any real experience with this. I guess my question for Mordecai’s rages would be..wouldn’t the psychologist want to encourage him to recognize the signs that a rage is coming and then reward self-soothing attempts? Not rewarding the no rages, but rewarding his attempt at self control. And not rewarding successful self-control, but the attempt itself. Is that even possible for him with the fasd?

    And with ODD-rewards are so tricky because in order to keep control, the kid with ODD will just change their mind and decide they didn’t want to earn a reward anyway. And while they’re at it, they will just throw away all the rewards they’ve earned in the last year. It doesn’t sound like the psychologists has a lot of experience with kids like this. You can find better advice than that on Pinterest or Facebook pages. Seriously though-I did a search on Pinterest for teaching and ODD. I found all sorts of great tips for dealing with the kid that doesn’t respond to typical reward systems. (I’m pretty sure my 5yo could get an official diagnosis)

    • Lucy

      I had the same thoughts, as just a mom of unlabeled kids. In the same line as rewarding attempts at self control, and it seems that a good psychologist would be teaching them tools to control the desires to rage or be defiant, perhaps the “punishers” should be instituted for failure to use those tools. Make it about what they can control, not so much what they can’t.

  10. Beaunbella

    Hi I’ve been reading your blog for years, I’m a foster carer and have a foster son the same age as your Avi who has some similar diagnosis. I have no advise but can really relate to the conflicting worries for both the kids with the ‘difficult behavior’ and the other kids. I have recently put the equity/equality pic up of to use to talk to all kids and counter the seemingly constant cries of ‘it’s not fair’. But it’s also been good to remind myself that one size / strategy doesn’t fit all.
    I don’t do sticker charts for earning rewards but I do try to catch him doing good and give a natural reward (choose next activity, first choice of snack etc) and have been using a mood barometer to try to help him identify when we are reaching the tipping point. This doesn’t help with the violent rages though and they are getting more difficult to deal with as he gets bigger.
    I just felt I needed to say hi and that I can relate. Take care 🙂

  11. Cecily Spencer

    You know “Professionals” study this stuff but they don’t actually live with it so they don’t really understand. The only thing that has worked for us is the bad behavior costs big. If you reward these kids they feel like they have won and put one over on you and they view you as stupid and weak. Praise means “OK, I’m all done now I can act any way I want” Praying for you.

  12. Dawn

    Oh I feel your pain. I have one with ODD and rage issues. It is really tough and I am sick of people saying just spank them, etc. It doesn’t work. I have learned to pick my battles. Until someone lives with a child with these issues they have no clue. Hang in there and do what works for your child and family.

  13. Ann

    i have a son with ODD, too. (Well, his doctors say he’s worse than that, like conduct, antisocial worse. one used the word psychopath.) But he’s only eight, and “you’re doing such a great job handling him”, they say. I get more grey hairs everyday.

    I have also been told to use this strategy. i nodded, and left saying there’s no way. These kids will use behavior to hold you hostage. They’ll take the rewards when it’s convenient, when they feel like it, often when others are around. Then they’ll revert to their patterned behaviors when the effort seems to much. Society does not reward people for not breaking the law. Society punishes people when they do break the law.

    I’ve decided to communicate this message calmly, repeatedly, tearfully, fearfully. My sons consequence for not being fun to be around, is to not be included in fun. Neither I nor my other children deserve to be abused, or punished, or manipulated. If he wishes to be a part of fun, he can hold it together (EVEN THOUGH IT IS HARDER FOR HIM). If he doesn’t, he can be a jerk on the sidelines while the rest of us have fun. I stick to this at home and in public. He was quick to try to shame me in public with crocodile tears, cries of unfairness. I invite him to share publicly the choices he made to lead to his missing out. If the mama-shaming doesn’t stop, I calmly share those choices for him. He finds that embarrassing (because im supposed to be mean, not him). I have only had to do that once or twice.

    The bigger problem i have is other adults, who feel the need to comment uninvited about poor J, and how he doesnt get to participate, doesn’t get a treat, etc. I thank them for their concern, invite J to share his choice. If he doesn’t want to share, I simply say that I am trying to teach my son that choices have consequences, before society has to teach him that in a much more painful, and sometimes permanent way.

    I also talk less about how a behavior makes me or anyone else feel. He doesn’t really care. I talk about the right for him to be treated a certain way, and that the right extends to all; that people don’t like to be abused; that friends won’t tolerate it, and family doesnt have to either. Love does not mean accepting abuse! We’re reluctant to use that word as parents, because it seems so harsh, but if these behaviors don’t change, and continue into adulthood relationships, that’s what they will be–abusive behaviors.

    This is soooooooooo hard. Trust your instincts. I think you’re right. I’ll pray for you and your daughter. Please pray for us too.

  14. Ann

    I forgot to mention, that as exhausting as it is, I start each day anew. J doesn’t miss out today for a choice yesterday. I still believe in miracles! And if he wakes up one morning with a renewed spirit, I don’t want to bring pain into that miracle by carrying things over from another day. It’s not easy, because there are things from even years ago that were so hurtful that i have not forgotten, but I just keep working and praying, and trying to see that miracle in him!

  15. Denise Fouts Key

    If you do decide to try rewards, how about modifying for something less tangible than Legos or McDonalds. If they fill up their sticker charts, they can choose a dessert for the whole family for the next meal or something similar. Since the whole family has to suffer when they are defiant or raging, make the reward something the whole family gets to enjoy.

  16. Martha

    I have a son with autism. He earns rewards like capri suns and chips/cheetos during ABA every day. Things that we don’t keep in the house normally. We often give his siblings the same treat even though they did not earn it like him. My thought is that they are also affected by all the therapy (10 hours a week!) that they deserve to be rewarded too.

    On that note my point is that they idea above of letting them earn a treat for everyone is a great one, everyone in the house is affected by what is going on.

    They could earn a trip to the donut shop that everyone gets to go on, a pizza movie night where they get to pick the movie, a special dessert, their favorite dinner, a trip for everyone to a favorite place, etc. Maybe you could come up with a list of options and let them choose from it, that way their choices are limited to feasible realistic options.

  17. Christina

    For us with a child with severe mental illness including ODD, using the sujested sytem backfired majorly. I can’t go into more detail in the comments but if you want to email me I can give you more of an insight of what happened.

  18. Melpub

    We are struggling with this right now. I am taking advice given to us by psychologists with a grain of salt. When what they say seems like a ray of insight in a cloudy situation, I listen. If I think they’ve got it all wrong–alas, I sometimes do–I think, “Well, I can write about this nutsy idea they had.”
    The “reward” stuff–it’s worth a shot. A chart with a gold star, or a reward of Lego. It is worth the child feeling that you love him or her, and treasure good behavior. You could–here’s my idea–ask Avi and Mordecai to help you make the charts, choose the colors. Try charts for, say, two weeks. You could also make the reward a favorite meal at a restaurant or a movie they really want to see. And you could also try another psychologist if this one is wet behind the ears.

  19. modeejae

    My youngest was diagnosed with ODD in elementary school. Now she’s almost 16 and we still struggle. When I (or her sister) ask her to do something her automatic response is “no”. The disrespect is overwhelming sometimes. Her father is FASD and was adopted at age 7. When I talk to his mom, she tells me many of the things I’m dealing with are very similar to what they dealt with with her father. That makes me wonder how much of the things they called FASD with him were actually something else that is genetic. I know that in our situation, rewarding her for not talking back or not fighting doesn’t work. At times she can be my biggest helper and the nicest girl but other times, it’s exhausting fighting with her just to get her to shower or put on clean clothes. Unfortunately I have no real advice on how to deal with this because it’s a daily struggle in my house as well.

  20. Veronica

    So, I have no experience either with these kinds of diagnosis (but plenty of opinions, I bet! ;P ) But I was sorta thinking about it this way: If your children *really* cannot help themselves regarding their bad behavior, and are trying to build new habits, then aren’t the rewards sort of a temporary incentive until those good habits become ingrained? Kinda like, I reward my 2 year old for using the potty, but not my 5 year old, because it’s expected that he should be able too. I think your neurotypical kids could understand that. I assume the hope is that, for instance, Avi’s brain would become “rewired” to the point where acceptable behavior is more a reward unto it’sef, or at least more pleasureable than ‘bad” behavior. Oh dear, I don’t feel like I’m explaining myself well at all, maybe I will try again later…

  21. Lisa

    I didn’t get a chance to read everything, but I, too have a child with severe behavioral challenges, including the rages. All of the things you said are true, especially, once they blow it, it’s done.

    We also developed a “family dollar” system. Dollars can buy “tangibles” (ice cream, toys, etc.) or “intangibles” – time one-on-one with mom, eat in from t of the TV. The “Family Dollar Menu” is posted, and ranges from $5 to $500. Some have a daily or weekly limit. They earn “dollars” for doing what they are supposed to do (including chores, using social skills, and following daily routine), and they earn fines for things they should not do – most fines are $6 family dollars, disprespect $10, unsafe (threatening to property/object destruction to physical attack range from $10 to $40. The fine amounts are posted – no arguing (well, they CAN argue, but we just give a sympathetic head shake and point to the fine). When a child earns a fine, they can immediately earn HALF BACK by practicing what they WILL DO NEXT TIME – NOT “what they should have done” THIS time.(i.e. all is NOT lost….). If they are incredibly upset, they may ask to calm down first, If I am incredibly upset, I let them know I need a little space to calm down.

    The key thing that I had to realize with my particular kiddo is that a consequence may not “work” immediately – he may say “Fine! I don’t care!”, he may continue to be mad and continue the behavior – (things got worse before they got better) – but once he realized that the consequence would stand, he did better. Also, there was an upper limit to fines – then we all weather the storm, when things are calm again, we note the fine, practice the positive and move on with hugs and “You’re getting there! ”

    Also, we named the positive skills he was working on to earn – each child had a different top three “target skill” they were working on. So difficult child WOULD earn more for “showing respect” or “following direction” or “staying calm”- because those were his TARGET skills. Other child might earn more for “keeping room clean”, because that was HIS target skill. Especially for difficult child, target skills are concretely spelled out step by step – “Accepting No” – 1, Look at the person, 2. Say ok, 3. If you really don’t understand, ask for a reason. Every child could earn family dollars just for practicing the skill with parent when there was NOT a problem. Most of the ideas are based on the (terribly named) book Common Sense Parenting put out by Boys Town Press.

    So far as the unfairness – that’s a toughie. For us, my difficult kiddo is 2 years older than my other kiddo. I have explained to younger that older’s brain is wired differently, and it makes things MUCH harder for him. Similar to a person who’s legs may not work the same way his does …or maybe a child who DOES get praised for eating anything, because he has eating difficulties? So yes, he may earn MORE for the “same” behavior, but he had to do it with “mental crutches” , wheras Younger’s brain is able to “walk right into ” the positive behavior. We talk about how that is hard for everyone – older and younger – and we make sure to notice and praise when younger supports his brother, and Younger can earn family dollars for showing compassion and understanding when his brother’s behaviors negatively affect him. I tried to explain to Younger that it’s kind of like saying it’s unfair that Abby “gets” to wear glasses, and he doesn’t. Abby NEEDS the glasses to see, and he doesn’t. Older NEEDS the support for this particular thing.

    We tweak all the time – and I only have 2, though I am also a single mom. We have been though YEARS of difficulty, lost, broken systems, several different potent, relatively untested med changes. We have a med combo that REALLY seems to help right now – so much so that clearly the oher meds we had tried should have been called “ineffective”, except that I didn’t realize what a change an “effective” med could like.Your Mordecai sounds a lot like my older (10 years old), who is diagnosed with autism and mood disorder, and ADHD. This works for now, but as my kiddos get older, I’m sure we’ll tweak again. Some of this may not work as well since you have several more kiddos – I do know that for my younger, he often earns the “max” family dollars for the day. Every day he completes his routine, does his chores, etc – so for kids that generally DO do what they’re supposed to, it becomes simple and routine, but it also works well for my kiddo that needs more.

    Sorry for the long rambling post – I always look forward to reading about all your kids, but especially Avi and Mordecai since they remind me so much of my own special kiddo. I understand the special difficulty of having a child with these types of special needs.

    Lisa G. in CT

  22. Elizabeth

    I could write books about this… and probably have if you add everything up. But, the very short comment is, in my personal experience with my children from hard places is that the problem with rewards and consequences is that my children do not operate on a rewards and consequences basis. It doesn’t touch them. It doesn’t make sense. It plain old just doesn’t work. I find the work of Dr. Karyn Purvis and the Texas Child Institute (you can find her videos online), to be the best, most hopeful, and most helpful of all the resources I’ve come across.

    It’s a hard road.

  23. Molly

    Wow, that’s hard. Personally (I don’t have any ODD children (odd, yes, but not ODD;) I cannot stand charts and reward programs. Probably because I know that I can’t follow through so it has never been real helpful. I feel like there are real life rewards for not be disrespectful. Like friendships and pleasant conversations and positive interaction comes with having respect for others. I wouldn’t set up a system that I knew wouldn’t work for my family. I do hope you can find something that help them tho. I know you will:)!

  24. Jess Guest

    Another one with no answers for you sorry 🙁 This is what we do. Our current incentive system is “credits” where the kids earn credits for doing extra jobs, reading to a younger sibling, working on a tough goal (times tables). Credits can be redeemed for 50 cents each or ten minutes screen time (play station, computer etc.) this works well……to a point. When I ask a child to do something and they ask me “how many credits will you give me?” my kids, who are fairly neurotypical with a few scars from the trauma of a medically fragile sibling, will usually get it if I shoot a look. Occasionally I may need to have a chat or even issue a fine for having a rotten attitude but they usually understand that there is a core amount of stuff that just needs to get done and I do not reward that, I just expect it.

    The biggest trap I have found with all incentives though is that the kids will see that they “deserve” the reward regardless of their actions, especially if they get used to earning that incentive and then start to slack off. Then when they don’t earn the incentive, I am the bad guy and this can cause a tanty in and of itself. My 5 year old will throw a raging tanty at times when he doesn’t manage to earn the incentive which was hugely frustrating when the thing I was offering the incentive for was getting through the day with a great attitude (i.e. no tantrums) and then when he had a tanty it compounded with ANOTHER tanty because he was frustrated that he lost the incentive.

    For us, at this point, it is still worth sticking with the system though and the positives outweigh the negatives. It means that whoever is working on something specific (i.e. with my 5 year old, getting through the day with a great attitude) gets their incentive but other kids who do not have that kind of issue can also earn credits by going the extra mile (folding an extra basket of laundry, learning their times tables, reading to a younger sibling). It took a similar amount of effort for my 11 year old to get her school work done in a timely manner, read a couple of books to a younger sibling and fold an extra load of washing and put it away as it did for my 5 year old to get through the day without flying into a rage, tearing off his clothes and stripping the sheets and blankets off his bed a while ago so they got the same amount of credits. The five year old has since got past his tearing clothes off, bed stripping rages so he now earns his credits doing extra jobs but it took a while to get there.

    I also have a thing about positive wording. I do not reward getting through the day without a tantrum, but I will award getting through the day with a great attitude. I do not reward not stripping all the sheets off the bed and throwing them around in a rage, I will reward having a neat and tidy bed all day. I will not reward not tearing your clothes off in a rage, ripping buttons off and tearing t-shirts in half – I will reward taking great care of your clothes even when you’re frustrated. This puts the focus on what we believe the kids are capable of rather than on the behaviour we are trying to change.

    You’re in my prayers <3

  25. Kelly

    My adopted younger brother I also think might have odd and has some things that make me concerned for fas. He is so worth it and as he has gotten older has has developed much more control.

    It used to drive my mom crazy. She would tell him if you did xy or z then I will take your toy away for a bit. He threw it in the trash! She was so mad! She left it there and totally ignored him. He eventually crept back and pulled it out of the trash and ran with it. He was 8 then.

    He is 14 now. He has done things where he thought he would be sent back to where he came from. (He said that to my mom once). My mom’s response. You are family. You are stuck with us forever. No matter what you do you will always be my son. He definitely has impulse control issues as well. We decided to use medication partially to help him. He lost weight on the stimulant used with ADHD so is on intuniv. It is a blood pressure medicine. my mom hates having to medicate him but it helps his brain function the way it needs to for him to be a better person.

    He once slapped my daughter when they were in the car and she kept hitting him on the head. (Her behavior was also bad but his was apparently aiming to hurt and he is way older)
    He was so upset because he thought my husband would stop loving him for it. Broke my heart. We had to help him understand that the behavior was inappropriate but we would never stop loving him. (His reaction was to say I don’t care and be extra sullen).

    The things that have worked the most is bad behavior makes you have to run laps around the house. No matter whose house you are at. If you come back in still angry or upset you go and run again. You have to run one lap per year old. I hated it growing up.

    By the time you are finished you are too tired to keep arguing about whatever. My brother likes to think he is winning by going outside and walking really slowly around the house. We totally ignore it because he really just needs time away from people to calm down and regain self control. It gives everyone a break from the emotions. It’s also a set punishment that can be done immediately. He has to run in rain or snow too. (Our houses are small and he is super fast so he is not outside for long, and only during the daytime). He also does much better when he’s playing sports since gives him a positive outlet to use up some of his crazy rage he gets on occasion. It has helped teach him a lot of self control since if you argue with the ref or coach you go and sit on the bench. If you hurt another kid you don’t get to play.

    It has taken a concerted effort on all of our parts but he’s come so far from when he first came home. My daughter and him are basically siblings in terms of relationship. It’s helpful for him to get to come to our house and it gives my mom a break from kids for a weekend. (He is her last and he gets lonely).

    He is super loving towards my new baby. However if we notice how good he is acting he immediately stops and acts like he doesn’t like the baby. It’s so sad to see the injured parts of his soul come to the surface.

    Brains and chemical imbalances aren’t visible but we as a society should start to recognize the need to take care of brain imbalances like we would a broken bone.

    Basically good luck and you are an amazing mom.

  26. Rose

    Does the reward need to be monetary/physical? Could it instead be something like a star for the day on his/her own little personal calendar? Bad days get nothing or maybe a circle? Great days can make up for bad days to “earn it back” instead of feeling all is lost because of one bad day?

    Or maybe you could institute a family praise day? Each Sunday after church you could have a family meeting to say something positive about each family member in front of everyone. The kids could join in or not, whatever you think would be best for your family! Just some ideas 🙂

    I do have a question for you regarding adoption. Were you given any type of heads up regarding Avi and Mordecai’s prenatal care or the challenges they could face? We’re considering adoption and are curious to know what expectations to have going in.

  27. aew

    This is coming from someone with no experience with ODD, but a decent amount of education on how to teach children social and emotional skills- one thing that research says helps children’s behavior is to tell them what TO do, instead of what NOT to do. So instead of rewarding Avi for NOT doing something, reward her for making the emotionally and socially healthy choice. If you are working on her not throwing objects, for example, make the focus on placing objects gently where you want them. Instead of rewarding Mordecai for not throwing a tantrum, make the focus on him doing certain things to deal with his emotions instead- taking deep breaths, punching a pillow instead of a friend, ect. Another thing that research suggests educators do is use “natural consequences,” like someone above had mentioned- if Avi throws her expensive toy (again, just an example) the natural consequence is that you can no longer trust her with expensive toys, and she gets a break from that for a while. While I don’t know if that will work with a child with ODD specifically, I have seen it work with a lot of children with various other behavioral and developmental needs.

  28. Suzan

    The shifting sands of family life. I haven’t walked your journey but I do feel for you. I used to lament that children didn’t come with a specific instruction book for each and every child. I only had three to deal with. I send you my love and prayers. Each and every situation is different and I feel the professionals forget to look at managing a family as well as the individual. God bless and grant you the wisdom you need.

  29. simonanderin

    I haven’t read the comments, and I don’t have a child with ODD. I do have two with ADHD (inattentive), which I realise is nowhere near the same thing. However, they do often get into poor habits, and we have found a solution that is non-confrontational, and keeps tension low, which I believe may be helpful with a child with ODD. Push ups. Basically every time we see the behaviour it’s 5 push ups. They don’t hate it – in fact I think they secretly quite enjoy it. It’s not a tension raiser and is quickly over. However, try doing 5 pushups 10 times in a few hours and they begin to see the habit pretty quickly. It helps if they’re on board with it. We discuss habit breaking with them, and let them know that we think that they are in a habit of responding a particular way, or forgetting to shut a particular door (in the middle of winter!!!). What we have found is that they fairly quickly resolve the habit themselves – they’ve even been known to self discipline – more with the door stuff than behavioural stuff. We rarely have to keep this up for more than a couple of weeks. The behaviour may return again, but it’s a pretty quick fix – and can possibly even be used in a public situation depending on the age and personality of the child.

  30. Lisa C.

    My 9 yr old daughter does not have ODD, although she has some similar behaviors/challenges due to her past trauma. I was also faced with the question of how to motivate her towards positive behaviors, most particularly around social interactions and with her attitude growing larger each day, and nothing had seemed to work on a consistent level. This summer I instituted the “R&R” program with her. Respect and Responsibility. This was explained to her, with all the specifics laid out, as in what it is to speak respectfully, and what is not speaking respectfully, etc. along with taking more responsibility for her things and herself. I could not implement without a reward because she would simply not participate, but I did not want an immediate reward so I decided to try using a long term reward. She has been begging for a bearded dragon lizzard for her birthday which is in December. I decided to put this as the reward, it would give us 6 months about, and it would not be a constant, you earn this because today you didn’t scream at me when I asked you to brush your teeth. What happens is when she is about to be, or has been, disrespectful, I remind her about “R&R” and I usually reference a recent time when she did demonstrate respect. Those 2 elements (which are essentially – don’t forget about your dragon and yes you can do this you just did it yesterday) have helped tremendously. It is only October and she is doing very well with this plan. The best part that I see is that she is now correcting herself before I correct her, and her general tone of disrespect is dissipating. Don’t ask me if it is going to last and then what I’m going to do once she earns her bearded dragon! This is very hard, and I find that parents of “typical” kids don’t get the approaches I’ve needed to take with my child. (She is an only child, so I have no advice on the sibling issues). Good luck with whatever you end up trying.

  31. Julie

    Wish I had a “magic mommy wand” – *sigh*. While I don’t have the issues you deal with to the degree you do, I do have one that could’ve been the poster child for ADHD. One counselor suggested ODD, but I don’t believe he has that. Three things that worked (well, HELPED) for us – for ALL our kids, but especially helpful for that one – have already been suggested
    1. Focus on what you’re seeking, not what you’re avoiding.
    2. Follow through. You’re wise to consider the logistics of any behavior/reward system before you set it up, to make sure you can follow through effectively. I love what some of the commenters have said about rewarding different kids for different goals 😀
    3. EXERCISE. Mine acted out less when they had a physically draining activity every day. We played soccer – lots of running! We did laps around the house – one per year of age. We got a trampoline – don’t come back in until you’re sweaty. Whatever. The exercise helps them drain energy. ESPECIALLY when they’re in those early teen years.

    Love what Lisa said about a fresh start every day. We memorized a lot of verses – His compassions are new every morning.

    Hang in there,


    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      The BIG difference with Avi is, she will act *worse* when you mention good behavior. Once I explained this to her teacher last year, she was able to find other ways to motivate her. She is *only* motivated by “pain”, not by rewards for good behavior.

  32. Corrie

    I was a substitute teacher. This worked for me. Have the kids keep their own charts with stars (or whatever). They put a star on their chart every time they feel like being nutsy, but don’t. Or you or a sibling can say, “Great job! Add a star!” If they get 10 stars, at dinner (or whenever) they can show everyone how they did. I don’t know if it’ll work on an on-going basis, but it certainly worked in the classroom. The only reward here is praise, or reaching a goal. I don’t know WHY it worked, but it did work with EVERY.SINGLE.KID. regardless of special education classroom or main stream classroom.
    Good luck!

  33. Jules

    I think plainly explaining to the other kids why you employ different parenting methods would alleviate half of your concerns. Our kids are all so different that we have to tailor our parenting to each child. However, they all seem to intrinsically understand that they are all unique and we have never heard any of them complain that we are unfair.

  34. Jen

    Can you come up with some sort of chart to gain points, stars, stickers and after 1 week everyone with x number gets to participate in a family activity.. maybe A and M get more chances per day to gain stars, points, stickers? Then the other kids are working towards something as well? Good luck!

  35. Sarah

    Been there, done that. Worked great. We had a chart with 10 stickers before a reward. I found things to praise him for. When he walked by a sibling I said, “Good job not punching your brother.” and gave a sticker. Even if he wasn’t thinking about punching, I had to find things. Or I would say, “Nice job for walking by the apple and not randomly chucking it at me.” At the end of 10 stickers he earned an episode of Teen Age Mutant Ninja Turtles. After about 2 months or less he drastically stopped being as mean. I also put him on vitamin B 12 complex by Throne and that took out all raging and anger. Forgot to give it to him the last couple of days and well, he was back to hurting us and animals. So, back on. Between the two – awesome outcome. I let the other children help issue rewards, and I chose the TV show, because everyone could enjoy it. I basically said, “Do you guys want to help him? We need to teach him how to be nice. Every time he does something nice, tell him and me, and give him a sticker.” It was like $3 on amazon to order an OLD season of Turtles. For Avi, I would recommend the new My Little Ponies. If she gets upset over the attention, I would just say it quietly and give it any way. It sounds like some RAD mixed in there, and eventually she’ll calm down.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Thanks, I appreciate your input! The thing about Avi is, if I said, “Good job not punching your brother” I guarantee she would haul off and punch him 🙁 We have been working on teaching her to graciously accept a compliment…that is another social issue all together. Her teacher last year was great about working with her on that one.

  36. Allison K

    I’m not sure what the right answer is in terms of what to reward for but I would urge you to do some “assessing” of her preference for rewards. Some kinda like tangibles, others adult attention, etc. there is probably a chart online that can help you ask questions for her preferences. As for being conflicted about using the reward with 2 and not all, you can tak to the other kids about what these two need. Just like Apollo watched more tv because of his situation, maybe these two need these extra charts and rewards. At school we just simply tell kids without behavior plans that they don’t need it because they can do it without using one and some kids just need it to help them be successful.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Yes…I’ve appreciated all the input and think I have system that will work. Hope to share it here soon.

Leave a Reply

You have to agree to the comment policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.