MindSwitch Mondays #22: Rewards That Bring No Rewards
Kids can accomplish behavior change through personal choice and conviction.
Behaviors are more likely to happen again when followed by a positive consequence like a reward. This is true for all behaviors, even those you don’t want to happen again.
Based on B.F Skinner’s Operant Conditioning Method for learning, a behavior that is reinforced will be repeated and behavior that is punished will occur less frequently.
Does this mean that if we want kids to behave *well* we need to reward them?
We live in a world where kids are overindulged by rewards. Kids receive prizes for going to school, for good behavior, for good grades, or for helping with house chores. We often overplay our hand at rewarding short-term outcomes that we lose sight of long-term outcomes. Kids get rewards for cleaning up their room and lose sight of the long-term goal which is: developing responsibility.
Rewards, or prizes, are extrinsic motivators that drive us to repeat a behavior, but for long-term change, we need kids to MindSwitch to do things because of intrinsic motivators.
Focus shifts from becoming responsible, to doing anything possible to earn the prize.
Even though rewards are important because they can encourage good behavior and increase self-esteem, we cannot solely focus on rewards to shape good and bad behaviors.
When behavior change can only be done through rewards or prizes, it can become a problem.
Rewards might shape behavior for the short term, but it does not change a kid’s mindset for a long-term outcome.
Some kids have a hard time doing their homework. Our first instinct as parents is to reward them for doing the homework. But if we think about this for a minute, rewarding kids for doing their homework is only rewarding them for the task of the day. What about tomorrow’s homework? They received a reward for doing it yesterday, they should receive one for today and the following days. And the pattern goes on.
Short-term strategies, like rewarding your kids because they finished their homework, shift their focus from what truly matters: Kids developing responsibility for their learning.
What tools can we use to encourage good behavior and increase self-esteem for the long term?
Have a Feelings Conversation. Ask your kids how they feel after doing the task they need to do? Or how do they feel if they don't do it? Why? Their feelings can serve as intrinsic motivators. Allow them to understand that they can decide who they want to be, and each step they take will lead them towards that goal.
Get them to collaborate. I wrote about this a few weeks back in MindSwitch #17 Collaboration over Obedience.
When kids know that they have accomplished their behavior change through personal choice and conviction, their reward is personal.
They own the change.
I would love to know your thoughts on this. Hit the reply button and get back to me. I reply to every email I get.
Take care, stay healthy.