When Teens Deserve Awards for Good Behavior

Family walking together through field

Hero Images / Getty Images

Teenagers are young adults who are trying to learn the ways of the world. When they do something great at school or at home or simply make a healthy decision, parents can give them a reward. The reward does not have to be money, but it is a nice way to say "thank you" or "I'm proud of you." Teens need this positive reinforcement because it shows them that they are on the right track. It is also a good life lesson that you can pass on: good things happen to good people.

When Do Teenagers Deserve a Reward?

A teen can earn a reward for positive behavior or by changing negative behavior. While you should not feel that you have to "pay" for every good thing your teen does, reinforcement of good behavior will help ensure that it continues. Plus, it feels good to give your teen a reward. It shows that you are paying attention when your teen is being good and not just when they do something wrong.

Teen-Approved Rewards

The following list includes a number of rewards you might want to consider. They are pretty much all the things that teenagers want and are quite universal. Of course, if your teen is into a special hobby or has a unique interest, you might cater the reward to that from time to time.

A Hug: You would be surprised how much this simple gesture means.

A Subscription: Maybe they have a favorite magazine that will reduce their screen time or there is a streaming music service they have wanted to start using.

Car Privileges: Extend your driving teen's car privileges for an extra hour or two so they can stay at the mall or coffee shop a little longer.

Cell Phone: If your teen does not have their own phone yet, this may be a nice reward for doing something special. Remind them that with a phone comes responsibility and you expect them to keep up the good work or the phone may have to go away.

Computer Time: Limiting the teenager's screen time is not a bad thing. When they do good things, give them a few extra hours to play on the computer without doing homework.

Concert Tickets: Is your teen dying to attend the hottest new pop band that is coming to town? Reward them with a pair of tickets and let them invite a friend to attend the show with them.

Extended Curfew: Give them an extra hour on their weekend curfew so they can hang out with friends just a little bit longer. This can help establish trust.

Favorite Meal: Give your teen the opportunity to plan one of the family's dinners and let them choose their favorite dish and dessert.

Friend Time: Give your teen permission to invite a few friends over for a sleepover or just a few extra hours to watch movies, play games and hang out.

Hobby Tools: For teens who are interested in a particular hobby, a new tool related to it is a great reward.

Movie Night: Either get the family together or let the teen invite a few friends to a movie night. Give them tickets to the theater or have their friends over to stream that new blockbuster at your house. If it's a family movie night, reward your teen with the flick of their choice.

New Book: Encourage reading and reward your teen at the same time by giving them a new book or a gift certificate so they can choose their own.

New Clothes: Every teen wants the latest fashions and a gift card to the mall is a fantastic idea. Give them a ride—or let them drive—and allow them spend the afternoon with friends spending their well-earned reward.

Pizza Night: Almost every teen loves pizza and you can treat them to a dinner at their favorite pizza joint or make a pie at home. Invite the teen's best friend and let them choose their favorite toppings!

Redesigned Bedroom: A teenager's bedroom is their place in the house and it is always nice to move furniture around or add a fresh feel to the decor as they grow up. If they have been begging you for a new look, this is a great reward.

Sleeping In: Allow your teen to take a morning off and sleep in a little later than normal. Of course, this shouldn't be on a school day.

7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Law BM, Siu AM, Shek DT. Recognition for positive behavior as a critical youth development construct: conceptual bases and implications on youth service development. ScientificWorldJournal. 2012;2012:809578. doi:10.1100/2012/809578

  2. Kray J, Schmitt H, Lorenz C, Ferdinand NK. The Influence of Different Kinds of Incentives on Decision-Making and Cognitive Control in Adolescent Development: A Review of Behavioral and Neuroscientific Studies. Front Psychol. 2018;9:768. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00768

  3. Murphy MLM, Janicki-deverts D, Cohen S. Receiving a hug is associated with the attenuation of negative mood that occurs on days with interpersonal conflict. PLoS ONE. 2018;13(10):e0203522. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0203522

  4. Odgers C. Smartphones are bad for some teens, not all. Nature. 2018;554(7693):432-434. doi:10.1038/d41586-018-02109-8

  5. Twenge JM, Campbell WK. Associations between screen time and lower psychological well-being among children and adolescents: Evidence from a population-based study. Prev Med Rep. 2018;12:271-283. doi:10.1016/j.pmedr.2018.10.003

  6. Wray-lake L, Crouter AC, Mchale SM. Developmental patterns in decision-making autonomy across middle childhood and adolescence: European American parents' perspectives. Child Dev. 2010;81(2):636-51. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2009.01420.x

  7. Houston SM, Lebel C, Katzir T, et al. Reading skill and structural brain development. Neuroreport. 2014;25(5):347-52. doi:10.1097/WNR.0000000000000121

By Denise Witmer
Denise Witmer is a freelance writer and mother of three children, who has authored several books and countless articles on parenting teens since 1997.