Let’s Talk…Punishment by Rewards
“In a reward-oriented classroom, including one that is characterized by praise, kids are led to ask, ‘What do they want me to do, and what will I get for doing it?‘ fundamentally different from ‘What kind of person do I want to be?’ or ‘What kind of classroom do we want to have?‘”
So many of us have been trained that to motivate children we need to be rewarding them – either with tangible items like stickers or with verbal praise. I hope you will take a brief moment to read the article Punished by Rewards: A Conversation with Alfie Kohn. It will cause you to pause and consider how we manipulate children even with our well-intended praise. One of the things that I found most interesting is that research shows when we reward children for tasks that they are intrinsically motivated to accomplish, they lose interest in that activity and we place the emphasis on pleasing us as the adult. Ouch.
Who among us hasn’t used the words, “I like the way Tommy is sitting with his hands in lap waiting for my story”? Kohn gives four reasons why he is opposed to this type of manipulation. Take a peek at the article to learn what those are. A few other quotes I hope you will give thought to -
- What these kids need is unconditional support and encouragement and love. Praise is not just different from that; it’s the opposite of that. Praise is, “Jump through my hoops, and only then will I tell you what a great job you did and how proud I am of you.”
- Kohn advocates providing an engaging curriculum and a caring atmosphere “so kids can act on their natural desire to find out.”
- You show me a school that really has those three Cs in place (content, community, choice)—where students are working with one another in a caring environment to engage with interesting tasks that they have some say in choosing—and I’ll show you a place where you don’t need to use punishments or rewards.
Hope you give the research-based information he shares some thought! I will not deny that for the short term, rewards work to get the results we are seeking, but are we doing more damage than good in the long run? Do we need to be giving more attention to the natural interests of our children and less attention on how to please us? Share with us your thoughts at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/rewards