Starting a reward system for your teen to help them manage their juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA)

PDF download is not available for Arabic and Urdu languages at this time. Please use the browser print function instead

Learn how setting up a reward system can help your teenager accomplish new JIA management goals.

Key points

  • Encourage your teen to accomplish new goals in JIA management through use of a reward system.
  • Examples of rewards systems include points-based systems and privilege systems.
  • Decide with your teenager which type of reward system will work best.

One great way to help your teenager to accomplish a new goal for better JIA management is to use a reward system. Rewards are a great way to help your teenager learn what your expectations are. Your teenager will also learn that you care about their behaviour. You will teach them that positive behaviour can lead to positive outcomes.

You may have used rewards for other important behaviours like completing chores or homework. In a reward system, your teenager will receive something of value when they engage in a positive behaviour. Reward systems involve setting clear expectations and consequences. These can be determined by both you and your teenager. The more your teenager is involved with this process, the less likely they will feel as though they are being told what to do. There are certain goals related to JIA management that your teenager can work on. These include increasing compliance with taking medicines, increasing attendance at school and learning to use coping behaviours such as relaxation strategies.

Below are some details about two different types of reward systems.

Points system

An example of a reward system may include giving your teenager points each time they complete a goal or demonstrate a positive behaviour. A desired goal could be attending a full day of school; a desired behaviour could be trying relaxation strategies to manage a pain flare. Once your teenager has reached a certain number of points, they receive the reward.

Any particular point system you create with your teenager is okay to use for a few weeks. After that, it is a good idea to either drop it with mutual consent or adapt it to new goals and rewards.


Assign a larger number of points to those activities that are harder or more important, like attending a full day of school. Easier, less important activities would be assigned fewer points.

Remember to keep track of accumulated points and decide how many total points will earn a reward. For example:

ActivitiesDaily point goalDaily privileges
Attending full day of school (30 points)50 points1 hour of playing video game (30 points)
Completing 15 minutes of joint exercise (15 points)Talking on the phone after school (20 points)

You can also work towards weekly point goals and privileges worth higher point amounts if you choose to do so.

Privilege system

Another type of reward system is to try pairing a particular behaviour with a desired privilege. A desired behaviour could be taking medicine each day and a desired privilege could be getting to use a cellphone. Each day that your teenager takes medicine as prescribed, they can have access to a phone.

Target one or two important activities, which are rewarded by providing a privilege when they are completed. However, when activities are not completed, privileges are not provided.

Creating a reward system

To create a reward system that works for you and your teenager, consider the following steps:

Think of two to three activities you would like to encourage your teenager to do. These are activities your teenager has difficulty with due to their JIA.

Make a list of some of the things you think your teenager would like to have or would enjoy doing. Examples might include having use of a cellphone, spending time on the computer or a new purchase.

Decide with your teenager which type of reward system will work best. Generally, the points system works well for younger teenagers. The privilege system is better suited for the older teenagers.

Tips for creating a reward system

Make sure you and your teenager both understand the system and agree on a motivating reward such as a special purchase or privilege. This could be an extra hour of TV/computer time, purchasing a cell phone or being allowed to attend an event independently.

  • Keep the system realistic. You want your teenager to be successful in completing their activities.
  • Clearly communicate to all those who are participating in the reward system. Work out any other details such as alternate activities and rewards.
  • Allow your teenager to make mistakes and do not feel as though you need to help them earn points for their reward. For example, if your teenager chooses not to complete their exercises, don’t feel like you have to help them complete the exercise. As long as your teenager understands the system, they will learn from both their mistakes and successes.
  • Be supportive. Take time to speak with your teenager about how the system is working, and what improvements can be made.
  • Be consistent when using the reward system!
Last updated: January 31st 2017