Exploring parents' reward behaviour toward their children in sport


One strategy used by parents to motivate their children in sport is to offer rewards (e.g., food, money, screen time, praise). While rewards may theoretically impact behaviour, research has shown they may not be needed and may even decrease intrinsic motivation (Deci et al . 1999; Shwed, 2020). Since rewards may not achieve parents' intended objectives, it is unclear why parents still offer rewards in the context of sport. This study explored parents' reward behaviour in sport. Parents (N = 811; Mage = 39.7 yrs; 51% fathers) of children (aged 4-13 years and participated in sport within the past two years) completed an online survey describing the child's and parent's sport participation, reward behaviour, and the frequency of different types of rewards given. Associations between reward frequency and independent variables were tested using ANOVAs and chi-squared tests. The reward most commonly given most weeks was praise (n = 346), monthly was food at home (n=342); and never given was screen time (n=171). Other than parents, grandparents were most likely to offer rewards (38.7%). The frequency of rewarding takeout food was associated with parent gender (p < .05), and free choice of reward was associated with the level of sport of the child (p < .05). Our results suggest that different types of reward are used very similarly by parents, regardless of most demographic and sport participation characteristics. Future research should explore parents' motivation behind rewarding, and how rewards affect children's motivation.

Acknowledgments: This project is supported in part by funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council