To reward or not to reward… You wanna hear my opinion??

(1.5 minute read)
There’s a lot of debate whether children should be rewarded, whether behavioral changes stick once the reward is stopped, whether the changes are “real” and internalized, and so forth.

What’s my opinion??

Rewards and incentives are necessary to motivate people, regardless of age. Without incentives, change can be very slow.

Of the five important ingredients, here’s ingredient #3: Incentives.

Tip #1:
When a skill or expectation is really hard or anxiety-provoking for a child, the incentive needs to be greater than the fear or hardship! This bears repeating. The incentive needs to be greater than the fear or hardship!

If a child is anxious to approach friends, or go to a birthday party, or complete a homework sheet, or get ready on time for school, or go to sleep at bedtime, or any other challenge… if the reward is super-enticing, the child will dare to try the new behavior, discover that it is doable, enjoy the success, and ultimately be motivated to keep doing the positive behavior.

What happens when Incentives are lacking? It results in Gradual Change! Oftentimes, that creates negative feelings all around. The parents and teachers are disappointed and impatient, the child continues to feel like a failure, and self-esteem suffers.

Tip #2:
Some kids are motivated by internal rewards (feeling good, accomplishing, learning new skills, mastering challenges) and some kids need external rewards (prizes, treats, privileges, etc.) If your child is not internally motivated yet, offer the external rewards. Eventually, the internal rewards will take hold once the behaviors become habit.

Have an enjoyable week!

Dr. Devora

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