The Problem with Rewards – and the Alternatives

We routinely use rewards, bribery and praise with our children, with the intention of supporting them to succeed in their relationships and their lives more generally.  But do rewards get in the way of children developing an internal sense of what behaviour serves them best?  And what might the alternatives of celebration and appreciation look like?

In the video (60 seconds)

Do rewards help our children? A brief introduction, with full discussion in the 7 minute video below.

In the video (7 minutes)

Following on from the 60 second introduction, this 7 minute video tip looks at:

What rewards are and why we use them (0:00)
Whether using rewards gets us where we want to be (1:07)
Alternative 1: Celebration (3:51)
Alternative 2: Appreciation (5:00)

Things you may think after watching this…

“It’s all very well – but celebration and appreciation simply don’t work!”

I’m particularly wanting to underline in relation to this blog entry that it sits in the much wider context of the Partnership Parenting framework. Shifting to more of a Partnership Parenting approach is a big job for many, and there is a limit to what can be achieved without applying the three steps of the model in any given situation.  This is true for me when thinking about the vast topic of what motivates our children’s behaviour, including the subject of rewards.  Still, my aim with the blog topics is to give a sense of what is possible, and some practical suggestions which can be put into immediate effect.

A manageable thing to try

Think of something you’d normally praise your child for. Consider why you enjoy her doing whatever it is. Then when she next does it, pause when you open your mouth to say ‘Good girl!’ or ‘That earns you a sticker!’.  Instead, tell her why you’re happy when you see it.  So ‘Getting dressed yourself really helps me enjoy mornings with you!’ or ‘I love when you share your toys so everyone can have fun playing together’.

More on the topic

The Natural Child Project: Rewards and Praise – the Poisoned Carrot by Robin Grille. A deeper discussion than in the videos above, with links to other resources.

Alfie Kohn, who writes extensively on punishments and rewards:
Articles: Links to a long list of articles and blog posts
Punished by Reward and Unconditional Parenting: A summary of one of his best known books on the subject

PBS Parents: If you enjoy using rewards, some tips on how to do so effectively

Leave a Reply