How to Provide More Meaningful Rewards in Your Parenting

How to Provide More Meaningful Rewards in Your Parenting


What Do Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation Mean for Parenting?

Every parent knows that bribing their child is not the most effective behavioral management technique, but getting your children to eat the vegetables on their plate for 15 more minutes of video game time doesn’t seem too harmful for parenting, right?.

Over the years, psychologists have determined that short-term rewards directed towards end results are not helpful in teaching children proper behavior and manners. In fact, bribes—whether they come in the form of money, play time, and/or candy—have a negative effect on children learning development.

Psychologist Edward Deci showed for his thesis that extrinsic rewards make people lose intrinsic interest in the activity itself. This should sound a little alarming because it implies that children won’t engage in activities unless there is a reward attached to it.

In the long term, this creates a “what’s in it for me” mentality, placing a stronger focus on competition than collaboration. Rewarding end results rather than the behavior itself is harmful to critical thinking development because it places an emphasis on a shortsighted win of receiving the reward instead of a holistic teaching of why the desired behavior is important anyway.

The amount of research available on the dangers of using short-term bribes is vast. However, no amount of expert advice can surmount the convenience of bribing because a quick-and-easy system is needed when disciplining your child umpteen times a day. As we know bribing to be not inherently useful, what are more effective alternatives when it comes to teaching your children?

This NY Times article by Bruce Feiler mentions four different, yet practical alternatives:

  1. Talking Cure

When talking to a child, try to understand the situation from her point of view and communicate the reason why you are asking them to do something. This will at least communicate the deeper meaning behind the desired behavior.

  1. Making a Game

Developing behavior is a gradual process, and it is the feeling of choice that helps this process progress. Instead of offering a 15 dollar bribe, offer the choice of “to do or not to do” and make a challenge that they can’t do the desired behavior. This challenge coupled with choice will make the child curious.

  1. Award Now; Rewards Come Later

Instead of giving a reward every time after a desired action is completed, give them at a more variable schedule. Since your child won’t expect a reward for doing things, rewarding from time to time for good behavior will teach the child to appreciate the importance of the behavior.

  1. Praise is Reward Enough

The most essential thing children need for learning development is positive feedback. Even saying a simple thank you is better than giving a reward. The child will feel appreciated and that is a feeling much greater than any material wealth.

These alternatives provide better ways than bribing when it comes to teaching your children. However, these alternatives have their own downsides. Simply talking to your children may not fully convey your message, as the children may not properly understand the importance for themselves.

Making a game may potentially create an atmosphere where the child focuses on proving you wrong rather than understanding the core importance of proper behavior. However, with the evidence laid out about the dangers of extrinsic rewards and the benefits of showing appreciation, there are a few universal tips to follow that will help when it comes to teaching children critical thinking and positive behavior.

  1. Don’t resort to using extrinsic rewards as a primary method with your children
  2. If you use a bribe to achieve desired behavior, set time aside later to properly explain the importance of the situation.
  3. Give as much freedom as possible to your children because the ability to have choice is the greatest self-teaching method.
  4. By reinforcing certain principles and behaviors constantly, you can remind your children with things to remember. Constant reinforcement is a great method to storing things into long-term memory.
  5. Show appreciation for behavior to be the ultimate reward.
  6. Keep a track of progress and always provide constant feedback and a reminder of the progress in behavior. People always love to hear about the progress that they are making.

 Image by Daquella manera


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