I've noticed recently that my 3.5yo is saying "if I listen, can we get a chocolate milk at Starbucks?" or "if I'm good and don't whine, then we can go to [fill in the blank activity that she wants]", etc. I think I was always very good at not giving rewards for expected behavior, but somewhere along the line as I've gotten busier and less patient, I think I'm over-relying on rewards to just get what I need done in the moment.
I'd like to stop offering rewards for expected behavior and encourage being "good" just because that's what you do. Tips or tricks for getting out of this cycle and staying out?
Have you tried saying something like "You listen to mommy for the same reason I listen to you when you have something to say or do stuff for you when you need it. It's just how we treat each other in our family. We'll get chocolate milk at Starbucks in a minute/tomorrow(whenever you want) because you are thirsty and I want something to drink too. Not because you do something nice, just because we are thirsty and want it." You would probably have to say something along these lines several dozen times. The first part would have to fit the expected behavior with a logical reason given. For example "you don't want to whine or shout at me because it hurts my feelings and makes me grumpy, and we don't treat each other that way." Also you would need to get your DD treats or take her places that have been used as rewards randomly "just because we want to go" for it to work. So it will take as much time and more effort to undo the expectation of a reward and lead your DD to expect that nice things happen just because they do not because of how she behaves. You can still go home if she's really whiny because listening to whininess gives you a headache and you can't drive safely. So sometimes annoying behavior can have a consequence and sometimes annoying behavior means you just talk about how that behavior makes the other people feel when it happens.
Talking about the possible social consequences of rude behavior and modeling polite expected behavior is the main way we've taught our 5 year old DD how we expect her to behave. Her behavior is fairly pleasant most of the time. She still whines a lot with her dad, but DH kinda whines back instead of replying calmly and quietly back.
I really like what the PP said. I'd also recommend reinforcing the expected behavior when it just happens with a hug and praise. Nothing over the top, mind, just a "Thank you for not whining about being bored at the store, even though I could tell you were. That was very grown-up. I'm proud of you!" *hugs* That has worked very well for my 4yo DD. I would start out doing it all the time then slowly tapering off until your DC was acting "good for goodness sake". :) I wouldn't stop praising the behavior all together, but keep the praise for a time it seemed particularly difficult for your DC to act in the appropriate manner or just because it had been awhile.
I've always tried not to use rewards, but my ds1 still asks stuff like that occasionally. I say something along the lines of what ssh said- I tell him that what I expect is separate from fun things we do.
I've always made a big point to tell ds1 how his actions affect others. ie, when he whines it drives me crazy (not in those words. lol) so I think it's pretty ingrained in him that there are reasons outside of himself to do/not do things.
Becky, partner to Teague, SAHM to Keagan (7yo), Jonah (2yo)
To borrow a cliche, just say no. "If I listen, can we get a chocolate milk at Starbucks?" "I expect you to always listen to me. And, no, we are not getting chocolate milk at Starbucks today because [fill in the blank]. But thank you for listening."
"if I'm good and don't whine, then we can go to [fill in the blank activity that she wants]" "If there is time for [fill in the blank] after [fill in the blank], then we will go." Whining gets dealt with. Not whining can get a reward after the fact. Example: if the girls didn't whine or ask for things in the grocery store, I might buy a candy bar at the check out. But it wasn't not a bribe that I told them about in advance. And it didn't happen every time. Whining for something is an automatic no.
We have similar issues at times. Its worse, I think, if they go to public school.
I generally just sidestep the question or try to pre-empt it. "If I'm good and listen, can I get a hot cocoa?" (Ignoring the first part) "Hey lets get a hot cocoa on the way" or "I think we'll have time to get a hot cocoa on the way home" or "Sorry sweety, we're not going to get hot cocoa today."
Telling them we don't use rewards to control behavior simply historically isn't true, so I wouldn't even reference that, just work hard to set a new dynamic. I might say something like, "Sweety, you're ALWAYS good" with a smile.
I've always tried to ingrain in my 3yo DS that I always expect him to be polite. This includes using his manners, not whining, listening, etc. I will remind him of this before we're going into a situation where he might be tempted not to be - like going into a nice restaurant, visiting someone else's home, going into church, etc. I feel like if he is generally polite then he's not flopping around the floor of Target because I refused to buy him a candy bar. Sometimes I will thank him for being polite or using his manners, and let him know that I really appreciate his behavior, but I don't offer a reward for it. Obviously if he isn't behaving the way I'd like him to, I deal with that according to the circumstances. Sometimes he will say, "Thank you for the chocolate milk, Mommy. Why did you get me this?" and I just tell him, "Because I know you like chocolate milk and I thought it would be a nice treat." Obviously if he isn't listening, is throwing a tantrum or something, he won't get a treat, but he's not ever guaranteed a treat if he does act nicely. I feel like it creates the atmosphere that certain behavior is just expected, and treats are just something nice that we get sometimes.
On a side note, I like the idea of "being polite" because if he is starting to get rowdy, or act inappropriately for a certain setting, I can remind him that I expect him to be polite and I don't have to go down the laundry list of things I expect out of him over and over again. He knows that it means he's supposed to listen and use his manners. It's a good trigger word for him to bring him back around again.
I'm a fan of Alfie Kohn, google it. Many many wonderful, praise/bribery free parenting and teaching tips. My children get nothing for being 'good', it's just part of being a family- we all act within what is expected. It works!
AMS Trained Montessori Primary Teacher, M. Ed, and Homeschooler.....life is good!!!
I'm a new mom, my baby is just 8 months, so take this FWIW, but I have to second the Alfie Kohn recommendation. Try the book Punished By Rewards, or Unconditional Parenting.
Naomi Aldort also offers some excellent advice on parenting unconditionally, that is, without bribes/rewards or punishments. The questions section of her website, and her book, are both great.
Mama since 2010
Multicultural living in Europe