Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Do Rewards Equate to Bribery? {Natural Parenting Blog Party}

The Peaceful Housewife

I am currently in my final year of earning my Bachelor of Science in Education and Sociology. Throughout my education, I have repeatedly come across "ways to get students to do what they want" portions of nearly every class. Nearly every one of these lists starts with bribery - "To motivate your students to do well on a test, give a piece of candy to each student that gets an 'A'. As other students observe this reward system, they will also try harder on tests so they may also receive a reward." It makes me sick. Really, I'm not kidding. I think that children should learn based on internal motivations and that motivation gets squashed almost as soon as they step into a classroom that offers candy or other treats for learning. I've literally received lower grades in classes for going against this line of thought. I could have just written papers full of hypocrisy that follow what was being taught, but I think that this is wrong and I want my voice to be heard by my classmates on this matter - especially when these student teachers are still forming their own opinions.

As a parent, I have made the mistake of playing the "If-Then" rewards game many times over. In fact, I'm going through it right now. It's so easy to get your kids to do things you want or need them to do when you can say, "If you pick up all of your toys, then I will let you have a cookie!" Those blocks generally get cleaned up immediately! It was working amazingly well. That is, until recently.

My kids had started to weigh whether the reward was worth their efforts. I usually send my oldest down to the store on the corner to pick up milk or eggs. When he went, I was giving him an extra dollar to get himself a snack. Last week, when I asked him to run down there for me, he said no. WHAT?! He told me he wasn't hungry and, anyway, we already had some peanut butter crackers if he did get hungry. And Little Guy refused to pick up his blocks - over and over. I was getting desperate to the point that I was escalating the prize without even realizing what I was doing. He finally picked them up when I offered a brownie (he rarely gets anything chocolate.) Reality set in. I was doing the one thing that I was so out-spoken against in my classes. I needed to change my tactics right away.

With my oldest, it's much easier to just explain the situation and have him understand. He's a pretty rational guy. I simply told him that we needed milk and I couldn't take Little Guy out because it was too windy and chilly to walk with him. He is old enough to be responsible for getting an item I needed to make dinner and so he could go get it - without the extra dollar. He stomped out the door. But, when he came back, he apologized and told me he understood. He even suggested that I stop giving him the extra money and just buy him surprise snacks once in a while. Um... OK!

Now, the little guy is not that easily placated. He is used to getting special treats for doing what I want. As I was writing the Crafting with Toddlers post, it occurred to me that his "reward" for following the directions is the sense of pride he gets when the project is finished. So, I am very slowly working on getting him to do other things and then trying to instill that same pride in a job well done. For instance, when he cleaned up his blocks this morning, he received no treats (much to his dismay at first.) Instead, I brought out a special medal that I won from One Busy Moma. It is from Tatutina and it says "Super Hero" on it. I ceremoniously put it over his head and told him that he could wear it for a little while because he did a great job cleaning up his mess. I showed him how clean the floor was and how I could walk on it without stepping on blocks. I told him that he must be growing up because he was taking good care of his toys so they wouldn't get broken. You get the picture... Anyway, he had pride in his work. He told Daddy about his clean floor and showed him the medal. He did the same for his brother. And both of the cats. And his Juno doll. And just about all of his other toys.
He even wore it outside to show off to the neighbors!

At dinnertime, we took the medal off and I put it away. Later, before bed, it was time to clean up the toys again. This time he just did it. No begging or reminding him to stay on task. And, when he was done, he proudly announced to anyone who would listen that HE made the floor all clean. I have periodically used the medal to show him some extra appreciation when he's told me he needed to go potty, after he's helped me cook dinner, when we've finished vacuuming, etc. I don't put it on him every time he does something helpful. It's more of an extra way for me to show my appreciation than it is a reward.

Meanwhile, my oldest has been doing the extra things I ask him to do without asking what he'll get in return.Yeah, REALLY!!! I think that my speaking to him as an adult rather than a kid has helped. He understands that, as he gets older, I am depending on him to do more to help our family function. He's even been asking me if I need anything from the store lately! And, when I ask him to take out the trash, he just does it - no stomping or slamming doors. And - GUESS WHAT - last Sunday morning, I slept in until 10 AM! He came into my room when he heard Little Guy wake up, changed his diaper, made him instant oatmeal, and played with him until I woke up in a panic, "OMG! Where's the baby?! He escaped!!!" - LOL!! He told me he figured it was my turn to sleep in.

While this turn of events is wonderful, I can't help but wonder how long it will last. Will I find myself playing the "If-Then" game again? I hope not but, if memory serves me right, I just may.
How do you get your kids to do things?  
What have you tried that doesn't work?  
What are your thoughts on the rewards system in schools and at home?  

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!


If you're interested in Tatutina, you can check out their medals HERE. They're only $5 each and cover a variety of subjects (we also have the Awesome Artist medal, won from a second giveaway at Hanging Off the Wire!) In addition to the medals, they carry a variety of other products including wooden take-out menu boxes, dog treat boxes, foot stools, and bookends - just to name a few. All of their products are made with non-toxic materials, so don't worry if you find your little one chewing on the leg of her foot stool! LOL

***I did not receive any compensation for this post. I received two Tatutina Medals from two separate blog giveaways. I think they're pretty cool, along with Tatutina's other stuff, and wanted to share this great site with my readers.

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Discovering Deals said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

LOL!!!! I tried bribing with food or goodies myself. NOW I have learned to think ahead. If I KNOW we are going to the park, or if my youngest wants to go to grandmas, I say... Hmmmmm.. maybe if your room was cleaned up we can go to the park. Or "I hope grandma doesn't call to pick you up because you need to clean up ________ first." It's shame but kids are easily manipulated, but we have to do what works right?? LOL

Mry Jhnsn said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

That is too cute! Not just the reward of wearing the medal but your son's reaction. I do a mix of all that you have listed. I don't necessarily see anything wrong with rewarding/bribing in certain situations because as adults we often expect the same thing when we go above and beyond. It is a natural response. I also whole heartily believe, as you do, in pride in oneself as the reward, too. Then again... I have been known to break down in tears because no one will do what I need done, too lol

Great post!

Alicia C. said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@Mry Jhnsn Yes, there are times when you just have to weigh your mental stability against using a bribe. Sometimes, after an especially trying day, the only way to not go nuts is to offer a special treat for just one minute of cooperation!

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Oh, and I meant to say - in the classroom, I reckon it's more important to make learning fun - quizzes, playing music, having impromptu lessons (depending on age - what age are you thinking of?) Once the kids are having fun, or looking forward to a lesson, you're halfway there :-)

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Oh, blinkin' Henry! I just wrote a huge great post and it disappeared :-(

Let's see if it turns up beofre I re-post!

Aimee from Classified: Mom said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I thought rewarding with food was evil? Seriously, though, rewarding with food sends mixed messages about food. It's the I did good so I can eat, which in return can lead to obesity and so on and so forth. There is a lot of good research out there about it. I admit,
I sometimes bribe my son with a Popsicle if he sits still through a hair cut -I'm a hypocrite!

I never used a candy for any kind of reward in my classroom. When I taught art, I did a "Star of the Month" where they either showed the most improvement, best attitude towards projects, good helper, etc. to help influence those who were less interested in the subject matter. And, well for plain fun! Did their grades improve? No- but their attitudes did!

With my children I did a sticker chart and rewarded positive behavior. It worked well- but over do it and they won't move until they get a sticker. So it is a short-term solution!

Great post!

Mama Chocolate said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I think used *very* occasionally, it's all right, but if you make a habit of it, eventually the novelty wears off and then it doesn't work anymore and they didn't really learn whatever it was you were trying to teach them. :-/
(Stopping by from the Alexa Hop!)

Johanna at Mama Chocolate
Family life, tips for mom, reviews, giveaways and more!

Leslie @ Purejoyparenting said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Great post. Every now and then I use to resort to trying a bribe and my daughter would quickly tell me, "mom, we don't use bribes in this house." Too funny! This girl of mine keeps me on the straight and narrow.

Even though it can be very hard to have faith in their internal motivation when they aren't doing things on our time table, I've actually found that when my daughter does do things, she has full ownership. I feel completely different, inside, when she is owning it instead of her doing it to please me.

Suchada @ Mama Eve said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I used to do lots of "bribery" with my older son. It was mostly because I thought the important thing was for him to be happy and calm, but I can see from his personality already that it would have been better if I'd just let him learn the full spectrum of emotions. There's a fine line between bribes, rewards, consequences, and just a natural sequence of events. Often I need my son to do things before we do something fun (like get dressed and go potty before we go to the park). Sometimes I feel like I'm "bribing" him with a trip to the park, because I make it clear that we won't go unless he's dressed and dry. But he doesn't get candy to pee before we go, and the rules are the same even if we're going to the store.

The more experienced I become as a mother, the more I realize that children are able to handle the truth -- that certain things just need to be done -- no reward/bribe/whatever -- required.

Thanks so much for the thoughtful article!

Maria said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

After reading Unconditional Parenting, I reserve "bribes" for very select occasions and I weigh the consequences and what it communicates in advance. Usually, I talk to my son a lot about what is expected, needs to happen, etc. Recently, we made a poster that shows everything he needs to do in the morning to be ready to leave for school. The faster he does it, the more time he has to play. There is no reward. I don't have to tell him what to do. It's a win-win situation for both of us. No bribing needed. This is just one example. It's great to see other parents thinking through not just the short term action/changed behavior, but the long term implication of using coercion with children.

Personally, I wish schools did not use coercion (positive or negative). It sets an expectation that children are owed something for doing the right thing and suppresses the natural desire to do what is right simply because it is right.

Alicia C. said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I find that I have gotten into the habit of going over (and over and over) what we're going to do. "First we have a snack,then we clean up the toys, then change your diaper, then take a nap, THEN go to the park!" I think that kids feel powerless when they don;t know what to expect next. This can have an effect on their behavior that is less than desirable! My little guy, especially, gets all out of sorts when he doesn't know what's going on. He will act out and just plain refuse to cooperate. But, when he's got an idea of what's happening, whether he likes it or not, it's much easier to get stuff done.
Thanks for your input!

Lori said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Stopping by from the Alexa hop. I try to use combination of bribery and praise! They get praise for doing things that they should normally be expected to do but when I need them to go "above and beyond," be it extra super good behavior while Mom goes in this office to sign some paperwork or the serious cleaning that happens before company comes, I break out the bribes. Since they don't get bribes often, they are quite effective! I figure rewarding them for above and beyond is not all together a bad thing!


MariaS said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

We do use rewards systems as we use taking away privileges...

Alicia C. said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@Suchada @ Mama Eve

I think that him needing to be dressed before going to the park is more like your last paragraph - certain things just need to be done. You have to get dressed to go there, you need to pee before leaving, etc.

Today I had a little showdown with Little Guy. He wanted to go outside to help me in the garden, but he refused to help me find his shoes. We're trying to get him to be cooperative, especially when we help him, so the deal was: No shoes, No outside. He finally helped look for them (took all of 30 seconds) and we went out. I don't feel as if I used bribery. It was showing him that we need him to help us get him ready to go places - he's big enough for some small tasks and needs to have a feeling of responsibility over some things.

donna marth said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Bribery....I do it all the time! Guilty, but it does get action. I don't use it all the time, I use it sparingly.