Resisting Rewards: When Treats Turn Sour

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The times are hard, and it sometimes seems like we live in a “What’s In It For Me?” society. We see this in our children, too. They will not even empty the dishwasher unless they can bargain for extra TV time. What can a parent do to encourage good behavior in their child and get them to be willing to help?

What is the best solution? Stop rewarding your children for behaviors you would expect. A child shouldn’t need candy to get through the supermarket without throwing a fit or to motivate them to study for their test. If we reward our children for these accomplishments, then why should we expect them to do the same in the future?

A number of studies show that children who are rewarded lose interest in whatever activity it is they’re rewarded for. This includes preschoolers creating art and older kids reading. Yikes!

What does this all mean? You are doing your child a disservice by rewarding him for his achievements or good behavior. You’re setting your child up for a future “What’s in It for Me?” attitude.

You can, however, help your child to develop a better mindset in terms of good behavior and a “can-do attitude” by making some changes.

Here are some things that can help:

1. Create When-Then Routines

You can schedule key portions of your child’s day so that after they have completed the less-than-fun things (emptying the dishes, doing their homework, or practicing the piano), they can then do the more fun stuff (joining the family at dinner, playing with their friends, or watching their allocated TV time). It’s not a reward but a way to prioritize the less enjoyable activities in your daily schedule before the fun ones.

2. Encourage internal motivation

Tell her that you value the hard work, good behavior, or helpful spirit of your child. Watch her glow with pride.

3. Consequences are a great way to enforce positive behavior

If you have told your children what you expect, such as picking up toys before dinner or coming home before curfew, make sure they know what will happen if they don’t follow through.

It can be difficult to stop rewarding your children if you are used to this. You can be confident that your children will do well under the new system.

Tell your children that they no longer need stickers and other rewards. Confidence in your children’s ability to work without the tips is key. Discuss individual responsibilities in a family gathering, then create a routine that will help your children get started on the right path. Be sure that they understand the consequences of negative behavior.

Your home can become a place that is free of the “What’s In It For Me?” mentality with a few tweaks. Your kids will grow into caring adults that you know they are capable of becoming.

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