|“||A reward is not just something nice or desired, it's something nice or desired that is offered contingently when someone complies with our wishes or does something we like. If I give you a banana, that's not a reward. If I give you a banana for having helped me around the house, that's a reward.||”|
|— Alfie Kohn in Punished by Rewards|
Rewards can be monetary, food, or shelter, but can also include simple things such attention, praise, pleasant touch (such as hugs, kisses, shoulder pats, handshakes), smiles, encouraging nods or friendly words.
Rewards can be given by anyone, but are often given by a person in an authority position, i.e. by a person who gives orders, instructions, makes rules, and checks, inspects and examines their conformance. Giving someone a formal reward is just as much a sign of the giver's higher status as giving someone a punishment.
The difference between a reward and a present, gift or donation is that a reward is always in response to a specific good behavior, and usually this behavior is also named.
Just like there is self-punishment, there is also self-reward. A person may reward themself for things such as keeping up with self-imposed rules or chores - for example, a piece of chocolate after cleaning up the house. The prospect of such a reward can help to strengthen self-discipline.
Rewards in parenting
In parenting, rewards have a very important place. Traditionally, children are rewarded by their parents for things such as obedience, good behavior, good manners, or diligence. Such reward will often be informal, such as smiles, encouraging words, praise, attention, pleasant touch. More formal rewards may include food rewards (often, something sweet), fun activities, or extra privileges.
Rewards as reduction of punishment
Sometimes a delinquent who is punished for some offense is to be rewarded for certain good behavior while their punishment is still ongoing. Such reward can take the form of a certain reduction of their punishment. For example, a prisoner may be given extra privileges or even parole.
Rewards in BDSM
In BDSM, a top may not only punish, but can also reward their bottom for a change. Such reward can take many different forms, ranging from "punishment of a kind the bottom likes" to sexual rewards of various kinds. Typically, such reward is still given in a way that leaves the top in full control.