Need some advice about "rewards" and older kids - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 07-02-2011, 09:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My boys are 10 and 7.  We've never used any sort of punishment/rewards system with them.  I mean, they have been told to go to their room or we've taken away the light saber or whatever was needed to deal with a particular issue, but we've never had any formal system or chart in place. 

 

The kids came to me a few weeks ago all excited about an idea they came up with.  They wanted to earn points for good behavior and get a reward at the end of a certain time period.  I was instantly completely averse so to the idea, but they kept badgering me about it, really wanting to implement it.  (At first they also wanted the power to take away points from each other, but I of course knew that was never going to fly.)  But tonight we were having some of our same old battles and I started thinking about it.

 

I am philosphically opposed to artificial rewards for good behavior, I've read Alfie Kohn, etc.  But if they are the ones wanting it, can you think of any really horrible reasons for giving it a try?  It's so foreign to me that I'm not even sure where to start, but I'm guessing they would pick a certain "treat" like going out for pizza or a movie night or something, and then tally up their points at the end of the week.  They also suggested that I would take away points if they were not behaving well (and don't think there aren't times I'd love to be able to use something like this), but I don't think I could do that.  I think I could only make it a positive behavior system.

 

Gah.  I can't even believe I'm considering this, but they seem really disappointed that I haven't followed through on their request.  I think a lot of this stems from the "Golden Eagle" tickets they earned at school this past year.  (They were homeschooled previously.)  Teachers would catch the kids doing something good and give them a Golden Eagle ticket.  The tickets were entered in a drawing and then once a month they pulled some names out for special rewards.  But honestly, the kids seemed more excited about just getting the ticket.

 

So anyhow, I'm thinking about trying it, and would love any feedback you might have.

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#2 of 11 Old 07-02-2011, 10:27 PM
 
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Reward systems are very hard to put into place even when you are set on doing them because they require a lot of follow through.  If there is a goal they are working towards then maybe they would be willing to manage the reward chart themselves if you make it and give them the stickers for it.  There are a lot of websites you can find through google that are geared towards teachers that give suggestions for rewards teachers can give that cost no money and you may find some that work for home on those as well.

 

It may be that they want the system because they want a tangible item for a reward.  If that is the case it may be easier to give them a small allowance so they can just buy something, especially if you don't see this as being a viable long term solution for your family.  I only say this because I know that personally I wouldn't stick with a system like that for very long because it is just not how I parent.  If you want to meet the want they are expressing then I think you should just do that without trying to set up an elaborate system that you aren't sure you agree with.

 

A special reward night for the whole family to celebrate accomplishments may be another way to meet their desire for recognition.  My dd and I go out to eat at a sit down restaurant then for ice cream at an ice cream place afterwards to celebrate each other on a monthly basis and it is a lot of fun.  We don't schedule a specific day but it is usually after the first of the month when I get my biggest paycheck.  I also randomly buy her a matchbox car at the check out stand while grocery shopping sometimes and that always brings a smile to her face (it is only a $1 thing to do).  Adding in unscheduled celebrations to your routine may be just as acceptable to your kids and they may fit in better with your parenting style.

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#3 of 11 Old 07-03-2011, 06:00 AM
 
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Why don't you let them reward themselves, so it won't be an extrinsic motivation? You can buy them a bunch of stickers and a sticker chart (or they can make their own), give them all to them and tell them when they feel good about something they did, they can place a sticker on their chart. And you can go out for pizza at the end of the week regardless of the number of stickers.


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#4 of 11 Old 07-03-2011, 11:29 AM
 
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To me, if they're the ones pushing for it, then I'd give it a try.  Let them help design everything.  

 

If you find it's not achieving the results either of you expect, then you can always discontinue it.

 

You can also phase it out over time.  So, if a reward is had after 10 stickers or whatever, then increase it to 15... or do a random reward thing.

 

Honestly, my 7 year old gets a lot of satisfaction about checking off things on his morning routine.  There is no reward per se, but he still finds seeing that check mark very motivating.


Mom to DS(8), DS(6), DD(4), and DS(1).  "Kids do as well as they can."

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#5 of 11 Old 07-03-2011, 04:14 PM
 
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My kids love that kind of stuff as well.  Drives me crazy, but what can you do?  We had a treasure box once.  I would put stuff in there each week, trinkets, small toys, pencils, whatever.  My children had a list of things to do to earn points.  They had to brush teeth, make beds, whatever we wanted to give points for doing.  At the end of the week, they could use thier points to buy things from the treasure box or they could save thier points.  I had them be responsible for completing the tasks for the points and they were responsible for marking that the points had been earned.  This worked for several months before my inlaws decided that they wanted to play along and they didn't get the whole Alfie Kohn aspect of it.  They tried to give points for behavior and take points away and put stuff in the box and they tried to use the box as control, etc.  We had to do away with the treasure box.  It was fun though while it lasted.  Another thing we tried was an allowance based on a set number of chores.  This worked for only a few weeks before every request was met with "do I get a dollar for that?"  Now we do a set allowance based on age and the kids have to do chores but they are not tied to each other except that the kids have to pay me a portion of their dental bills if they don't brush thier teeth. It's thier choice and the the dental fee is based on age/percentage of income. They don't want to pay the dentist, so they brush usually, but sometimes they choose to pay.

 

Make it fun and let them have some control over the rules and rewards and it should be fine.  Let them know that it'll only be done for as long as it works for everyone.


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#6 of 11 Old 07-04-2011, 10:06 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hmm, I like the idea of having them give themselves points.  I wonder if that would satisfy them.  Of course, I can see pretty quickly it getting to where my 10yo is giving himself 20 points for putting his plate in the sink so that he gets to go bowling that weekend.  (I hate the bowling alley, and it's surpringly expensive, so it's not something we do very often.)

 

I'm going to have to think a bit more about how to implement this.  Thank you for your thoughts.  I don't see this being long term (it's just not my style), but they really want to do it so I think I'll figure out some way to satisfy what they are looking for.

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#7 of 11 Old 07-04-2011, 11:46 AM
 
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They didn't just give themselves points.  It was just thier responsibility to put the stars or marks on the place where we kept track of points.  So, at night, I would remind them...did you get all of your points today?  Then, they'd remember that either they did or didn't or "oh yeah, I need to go brush my teeth" and then they'd mark the points.  It wasn't just putting points for whatever they wanted and they actually had to do it (I don't think not doing it and just putting the points down ever crossed thier minds, to my surprise). 


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#8 of 11 Old 07-18-2011, 08:58 PM
 
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I am philosophically opposed to artificial rewards for good behavior, I've read Alfie Kohn, etc.  But if they are the ones wanting it, can you think of any really horrible reasons for giving it a try?  It's so foreign to me that I'm not even sure where to start, but I'm guessing they would pick a certain "treat" like going out for pizza or a movie night or something, and then tally up their points at the end of the week.  They also suggested that I would take away points if they were not behaving well (and don't think there aren't times I'd love to be able to use something like this), but I don't think I could do that.  I think I could only make it a positive behavior system.

 

You may want to reread Alfie Kohn's "Punished by Rewards" for a longer explanation of why it harms kids but in lieu of that, here's my understanding of it:

First, don't forget that rewards are just the flip side of punishment. Most folks think that the idea of "rewards" is a positive thing but forget that it is still manipulation and coercion (read: harmful).

 

  • Rewards & punishment extinguish intrinsic motivation
  • They cause children to view whatever act/trick is required of them in order to earn the reward as "a means to an end" & not as a worthwhile task/objective etc. in or of itself
  • Rewards, like punishment, undermine a child's sense of safety & trust
  • Rewards & punishment steal a child's pleasure in doing what you ask
  • Rewards & punishment take away a child's desire to cooperate with you (or others)
  • Rewards & punishment teach kids to reward and punish others in order to get what they want

 

A better way might be to ask what "reward" your kids have envisioned? Is it more time with you? Is it a trip to someplace special (bowling alley)? Is it more say or trust in some everyday choice (such as dinner) and in making family decisions? If it is something reasonable that they are asking for, you could consider it on its own merit and not make it a condition of their performance/behavior/demonstrations.

 

What if your kids were to compile a list of things they wanted to do (maybe movie night, pizza night, museum, family board game night, kids rent a movie, hockey game, etc.) and you put those ideas on small pieces of paper and then every month (or week, etc.) you and your family randomly drew one and did the activity together? How rewarding an experience could that be? No competition, no undermining the strong relationship you've built with your children, no disrespect, just fun and spontaneity!

 

IMO, Alfie Kohn's books are all fantastic; it sometimes requires reading and rereading to fully understand his important observations because they do  contradict the status quo. Upon closer inspection, his ideas - from the harm caused by competition to the damage done by rewards & punishment - these concepts really do resonate with our own experiences if we are willing to look closely at them.

 

Hope this helps!

JR

 

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#9 of 11 Old 07-19-2011, 08:28 PM
 
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Sounds to me like they want a way to control some special things in their lives, whether it's a trip to the movies or ice cream or whatever.  I don't see anything wrong with that.  And I don't buy into the notion that it destroys their intrinsic motivation.  I think the opposite; it teaches them the value of working toward a goal.  Just like a bonus at a workplace when you achieve a certain goal.  I think your boys are brilliant and they should be rewarded for their plan-- by implementing the plan.  :)

 

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#10 of 11 Old 07-20-2011, 10:56 AM
 
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Let me preface my statement by saying that the major part of my professional job is to teach and train parents and teachers about positive behavior support and rewards (but not punishments) are a big part of that - I work with families affected by autism from all across the spectrum and while I feel great about what I do overall, I am certainly conflicted about the rewards part of things for all the reasons given by Kohn and others on the topic - but for many it is a step in the right direction and can be a powerful tool and far better than the methods they have been using or misusing...

 

Follow through on this kind of thing IS very difficult so be aware of that...

 

Another thing I would suggest if you choose to do this (and honestly I don't think there is true harm in trying it since it is coming from them) is  be very clear and specific about exactly what is getting rewarded - I would certainly NOT reward them for just 'being well behaved' or some other already mastered and expected behavior or skill.

 

In my field the general view is that rewards can provide the motivation to learn a new skill (from simple eye contact all the way up to ?? sky's the limit) - the intrinsic motivation comes later from having and using the new skill or increased independence- but once the skill is obtained, you must 'fade' the rewards so they do not come dependent upon it - I have tried this with my own dd (age 7) and it is only as effective as I am consistent with my follow through - and like pp, it's not really a part of my style - and she's doing just fine so I'm not that motivated to change/do things differently (on top of my conflicted feelings and misgivings)

 

One of her favorites we have tried though is  earning  marbles to fill a small jar - when the jar is full a previously agreed upon reward is earned - but she 's just as excited about the marbles and counting the marbles as she is for the 'end game' itself - it's fairly effective as a means of establishing new habits/routines or developing a specific skill - but consistently giving and then fading  the reward is where it gets tricky (you can move to a larger jar or simply reward the expected behavior less often) and you have to be careful that once the reward is earned they don't let go of the new skill or get lazy in the new routine (this takes consistency and follow through on your part and it's harder than it sounds- (I personally just forget!) Maybe I need two jars - one for me and one for her and I reward MYSELF when I do MY job (making sure she has done hers and done them well) - truthfully I have not done that in quite some time and am not inclined to do it unless/until I have a new skill or job I want her to learn

 

As I said, I am conflicted on the whole issue myself and have had really 'mixed' success with it.

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#11 of 11 Old 07-20-2011, 01:40 PM
 
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I agree that follow through and consistency is tough (I have a kid with autism, I've tried everything)

 

If you are going to do this, make it as easy on yourself as possible. Make a chart and get them stickers and let them decide if they are earned the stupid stickers. You can put nice things on there, like feeding the pet without being reminded, making their bed, etc. You can add a box for "asked mom if there was anything I can do to help"  But let them police themselves. Just make it a nice habits for them to develop.

 

Make the reward something special, but not over the top. Going out for ice cream, sitting down to watch a movie all together, getting to pick a game to play.

 

They think it sounds like a game -- so set up the game for them. Nothing more. This is just a game they want to play for awhile. Let them play.


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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