|Are stars and a pay-off really the best way to train up a child?|
It starts with a sticker for peeing in the potty. (And don’t even get my started on that iPad potty!) And then a star chart for making the bed. A coin in the jar for washing the dishes. A lollipop for completing homework. It seems we reward our kids for every step of their day. And by “we” I mean parents generically, not me specifically, because I’m not a very good rewarder.
I recently read a parent suggestion in a popular family magazine about giving her kids a stamp every time they spoke to an adult and after acquiring so many stamps, they got to go to a restaurant as their reward. Really? We’re rewarding our kids for talking to people? I thought this, like using the potty, was something that we taught our children as a regular course of growing up. How many of us weren't pushed towards an aunt or family friend and told to say "hello"? What about taking the kid to the librarian's desk and telling the kid,"ask her where you can find books on dinosaurs." When I mentioned this to my daughter, she screwed up her face and said, “What if the kid doesn’t feel like talking to an adult?” Which brings me to the related question – are we teaching our kids, by giving them rewards for everything, not to do the thing, but to do whatever’s necessary to get a reward, be it a sticker or a dinner out? Rather, shouldn’t we teach our kids to do the thing for the internal feel good feeling of doing it? Or, wow, maybe just for the life practicalness of learning to do a new task.
I just saw another blogpost by a dad-blogger who gave his daughter $200 – wait, let me back up – wrote a contract with his daughter, giving her $200 for disabling her FaceBook account for 6 months. What the? And no, I’m not giving you a link because I’m not going to give you any tools to replicate such foolishness. I wonder if dad ever thought of taking away her phone/computer/iPad? What happens at the end of 6 months? Does she get another $200 or does she get her account back? And, if she’s a smart girl, why doesn’t she ask for more the next time around? Maybe another $200 for her Twitter account and another $200 for Instagram. This kid could retire by the end of high school.
What happened to “because I said so” and “because I’m the mother/father”? Or even Cliff Huxtable’s “I brought you into this world, I’ll take you out” if you need to put a little more tooth into it? I wish I would give my kids a reward or a pay-off for doing what I told them to do.
Last year, our Superintendent of Schools lead a book talk about motivating students. Part of the discussion revolved around cultivating a sense of internal motivation – the sense of “oh, I’m so proud of myself for doing that” instead of “what will I get if I do this?” Because when the reward is gone, the behavior disappears, too. Or the desire for a bigger reward appears.
Now, this doesn’t mean that I don’t think kids deserve a congratulatory reward every now and then. I prefer them for the big stuff and natural rewards/consequences. Straight A’s on the report card? Great, let’s go get some ice cream. All the chores are done without too much shouting and crying? Now, we can settle in for a movie and popcorn. Is this better than the reward every step method? I guess it’ll be years until we find out if my band of four turns into fully functioning adults, but in the meantime, I’m saving a lot of money on stickers and contracts.
Join the conversation, "like" us on Facebook: Just Piddlin' with Frances