We (parents) as the first educators of our kids, often find ourselves in a position where our minds struggle to choose between the right and the wrong. Our intend is crystal clear – we (each one of us) want to draw out the full of manhood from our children through our teaching. But as they say, teaching in itself is learning. We are learning from our own experiences and mistakes, aren’t we? In this post I am talking about what I have learnt about the controversial reward system for dealing with kids.
One aspect that I have been pondering upon deeply as I raise my little preschooler is – whether or not is reward system an ideal path to take When training a child for something new or hoping to incorporate behavioural changes. To be honest, rewarding my son for things he is suppose to do or for dealing with misbehaviour was the last thing on my mind. I was definite that I did not want him to tidy up his room only when I offered him a candy. I did not want him to gobble down his food only for the popsicle offered later. Also my mind was succumbed by the numerous articles I had read, that criticised the whole idea of rewarding a child.
One day when I went to pick my son back from school, I heard a loud howling sound. I instantly recognised it to be the cry of my son. I rushed inside and asked his teacher what had happened. She told me he had lost the sticker he had earned because he coloured Mama “L” and Baby “L” well. She then arranged for another sticker and handed that over to him, and also told him, he should take care of his belongings.
He cried with hot tears rolling down his cheeks that day. And I could sense that it was not a tantrum that he was throwing for loosing his sticker. It was a full blown expression of hurt and pain from deep within his heart and soul. He felt pain for loosing something he had worked hard to earn. I kept thinking about this incident for a while and realised that there is more rewarding a child can do than “spoil” him or make him greedy.
Reward or Bribe ?
There is a very fine line between rewards and bribe. Rewarding system is a well declared plan not a last ditch attempt to make a child complete a task.
If I want my child to complete his homework which he is unwilling to do and I offer a chocolate if he completes it, it is a bribe.
But, if we have a rewarding system where he is aware his behaviour is watched and appreciated the will to do his work comes from within. And this is exactly what my son’s teacher does at school.
At an early age, we as parents can start off with offering a word of praise, encouragement, or a star, or even a materialistic gift when a child completes a task, shares, expresses empathy, does a good deed or so on. This allows them to experience the joy of completing a task. Where on the other hand we may fear that when the reward is eliminated the child won’t do the task at all. I argue, at a young age when we are shaping these little humans, we must give them an opportunity to experience the good feelings that come with doing a task. Over a period of time doing these tasks or behaving a certain way becomes a part of their routine. Repeated practice makes it a part of who the child is.
Words of Encouragement
The best rewards that are a motivating force for my three year old son are immediate praise. He fixes a puzzle a gets a thumbs up, he waters the plants and gets a tight hug from me, he tidies up his toys and receives the star. And yes I won’t deny occasionally I take a toffee out and hand it over to him to express how well he has done.
I also understand that over a period of time, his needs are going to shift and words of praise won’t suffice. For then we will look for a plan B. For yes, the reward system will work only if the child really values the reward.
Having said that, I think words of appreciation work to a certain extent for kids of all age.
However, the degree of praise can be relative to the quality of work done. Let your child subtly know there is scope for improvement. And always remember to praise the effort and not the end result. He has won today, he may loose tomorrow. He was able to complete a task today, but may need help tomorrow. All that matters is he tried his best.
And trust me children notice these small thing a lot more than we give them credit for.
I don’t argue that you must use rewards. But I think instead of following what has been written all over the internet, you must consider an alternative method. It’s been working for us for sure!