What Are Incentives?


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TrophyWhat are Incentives? Incentives are things offered to you to help in the decision making process. Incentives are offered to encourage you to act. Some incentives make people better off and reward them for their actions. Other incentives leave people worse off and penalize them for their actions.

We are going to learn about positive and negative incentives and see how they influence you at home and in school.

Guess What?! Here is a positive incentive for you. If you finish this activity, you will be rewarded with a game to play. This incentive is offered to encourage you to complete your work. If you do, you will earn the incentive and be able to play a game.


In this lesson, you will identify incentives at home and school, identify positive and negative incentives, and discuss which incentives influence your own behavior.


No TVActivity 1: Incentives at Home

Let's look! Here are some incentives that moms and dads use to encourage choices and decision making at home. In each sentence decide which part is the incentive, then check your answer.

  1. Mommy says, "You can watch TV if you clean your room." [Answer]
  2. Dad says, "You will go to time out if you argue with your sister." [Answer]
  3. Grandpa says, "You can have $5.00 if you rake my yard." [Answer]
  4. Aunt Mary says, "If you take the trash out, you can go swimming." [Answer]

Does your family offer incentives to you?

SlideActivity 2: Incentives at School

Let's look! Here are some incentives that teachers use at school to encourage kids to make choices. Find an incentive in each sentence below and check your answers.

  1. Ms. Miller says, "Do your homework and you will earn a sticker." [Answer]
  2. Mrs. Ellis says, "No P.E. class if you forget your sneakers." [Answer]
  3. Mr. Brown says, "No recess if your work isn't done." [Answer]
  4. Mr. Bernstein says, "Pass the spelling test this week, and you can have extra recess time." [Answer]

Does your teacher offer incentives to you?

Activity 3: Positive & Negative Incentives

Now you know that incentives are used to encourage people to make certain choices. Let's learn about different kinds of incentives. There are positive incentives and negative incentives.

Positive incentives make people better off and are called "rewards." Look at the incentives above. Money, hugs, stickers, and field trips are positive incentives. These are things you want to get.

Negative incentives make people worse off and are called "penalties." Losing TV time, not swimming, missing PE class, and time out are negative incentives. These are things you do not want to happen.

Let's check to see if you can identify positive incentives and negative incentives. Click here to play. Why Should I? Activity


Congratulations! You have earned your reward. At the beginning of this lesson, you were offered the incentive of a game to play, if you finished your work.

Since you completed your work, you can now choose a game to play


With the rest of your class, come up with some different incentives that your teacher, principle or other people in your school might use. After you come up with some ideas, fill out your own t-chart with positives on one side and negatives on the other.