Do You Reward For Good Behaviour?

Is My Approach Too Harsh?

When your children do well in school, do you reward them—with money, toys, gifts, whatever? Harmless enough, right? They do a good job, so they deserve a reward. When you do well at work you are rewarded—with a bonus, a little extra perk, etc.—for a job well done, aren't you?

This is a topic that I have thought about, a lot. I always felt, intuitively, that rewarding children for grades sends the wrong message, but when challenged by my friends, I really didn't have a good reason as to why.

My 8-year-old is quick and really challenges me to step up my (parenting) game. When I told him we were going shopping, which he was not a fan of, he would tell me that I had to take him to the toy store. So, being the clever parent that I am (finding his currency), I would tell him that if he behaved while I did my stuff, he would get to go to the toy store when I was finished. That little 'trick' created a monster for me to deal with going forward. He equated everything good that he did—grades, behaviour, etc.—with some type of reward from me. That just could not continue!

We had a little meeting, my son and myself, and talked about expectations—his expectations of me as his mother, and my expectations of him. I explained that as a member of this family, we expected him to behave when we went out. He is just supposed to! Behaving isn't something special or above and beyond. I also expect him to do well in school. He is supposed to do his homework, study for his little tests, and get good grades. He is just supposed to! There is also nothing special about that.

So, what's the big deal? I have seen more and more articles lately on studies that relate to this topic—the fact that rewarding your children has them focused on the reward and not focusing on the actions and skills that the rewards were put in place to cultivate. Essentially, instead of reinforcing the love of reading or the love, excitement, and drive of working hard to achieve their own success in school, they are focused purely on the reward and not on the pure sense of fulfillment and satisfaction that comes with working hard to achieve their goals.

What I have started doing more of when my son is successful, is celebrating and making a big deal of the actions he took to accomplish those goals. We talk about the hard work and preparation that went into him accomplishing his success, and that he too should be proud of what he can accomplish. With this route, I think we are teaching them more.

What do you think? Is this approach too harsh? Do you reward your children for grades? I would love to get your thoughts and comments below.

Renée is Mummy to sons Jordan and Braelan.  She recently launched a new website, Kid 'N' Play JA.  Kid 'N' Play JA is the go-to location for parents living in or travelling to Jamaica.  Find information on activities and events, attractions, parenting and children’s articles, kid-friendly hotels and much more.  Enjoy your kids and Jamaica with  Connect with Renée at [email protected], or Twitter @kidnplayja.