Among educators and parenting experts, few battles have been fiercer than the one waged over the use of rewards. As a college and graduate student, I found my head spinning as I read convincing arguments and research from experts on both sides of the debate. Depending on the semester, and the professors I had at the time, the specific positions of Mars and Jupiter, and the barometric pressure, I found myself wavering between two extremist groups.
As planetary alignments changed, I’d find myself attracted to the “sticker commando” camp. These folks cited convincing studies suggesting that we should always provide “positive reinforcement contingent upon positive behavior.” The extremists among them spend most of their free time and money at the teacher supply store buying stickers. If one of their students breathes or has a pulse, a sticker is given.
Listed below are some of my thoughts on the use of rewards with kids:
Most behavior is driven by unmet basic emotional or physical needs. While rewards and consequences may modify the observable behavior, the underlying problem may remain. As a result, behavior change is often temporary, or the child acts out in some other ways in an attempt to get his/her needs met. I’ve been truly saddened by the number of educators and parents I’ve seen who could no longer enjoy their kids because they are so busy trying to keep track of points, checkmarks, tokens, stickers, or some other type of reward. Don’t kids pick up on stress and act even worse? You bet!
Rewards can be effective if we don't forget about meeting the following basic needs.
With Love and Logic, you help your child reap the true “rewards” in life… responsibility, self-worth, respect, and confidence.
Find more solutions for the rewarding your kids in the audio Four Steps to Responsibility.