“In regard to increasing motivation… I hear so much conflicting advice! And granted, this is all just advice and you have to do what you think best for your own child. But you suggest offering rewards for good behavior, yet many studies suggest that gives the child a sense of entitlement for doing something simple that should just be done without fanfare. And that later in life they expect rewards for showing up to work. Can you explain this disconnect?”
This comment recently posted on the BehaviorBandAid Facebook page portrays an unfortunate but understandable confusion about when and how to reinforce/reward your child’s behavior.
There are quite a few other “experts” and “studies” out there that are very strongly stated about the “side effects” of praising your children or rewarding them for their behavior. I will cite the origin of this quote only to show you I’m not making this up, but can you believe this statement?
“Parents need to stop praising their children. Yeah, No more! You must shut your mouth! Be quiet. Zip it. Stop Talking! All of that praise you have been heaping on your child is doing more harm than good…“I’m so proud of you!” Those are words that should not fly from your lips.”
“More harm than good?”
The major thing these articles have in common is they clearly and consistently do NOT understand positive reinforcement.
What you need to know about praise and rewards:
How? Be specific. Tell her exactly what she did that excites you:
“You got all your dolls in a row on the dresser! Thank you.”
“You got dressed all by yourself this morning! Good job!”
“You ate all your carrots today! Yeah!”
2. Be differential in what you praise. Giving everything a “good job” does potentially reduce the value of the “good job” over time. You need to be specific in your praise for it to have an effect on the behavior. Read this post too, if you think your “good job stinks.”
Just remember…praise the behavior, not just the kid.
3. As for tangibles and edibles, I do believe there is a place for using these as special, planned and unplanned, reinforcers or rewards for exceptional behavior. What I am NOT saying is to use these as bribes: ways to get something when the kid has already refused (read the previous post on the difference between rewards and bribery).
Parent: “Clean up your dishes please”
Child: “I want to go play”
Parent: “I will give you some chocolate if you clean up your dishes”
Child: “OK…then can I play?”
If you do this, you are teaching your kid to refuse the request, just to get a better deal. This IS a problem. This will become problematic, but it is not a problem with positive reinforcement or praise. That is like saying there is a problem with a hammer because you hit your finger instead of the nail.
4. Access to activities and special treats should be planned and used dependent on very specifically detailed criteria. I have written about using daily access to video games or TV time based on completion of daily chores and homework.
What if they start expecting something for everything?
If you do it correctly, they will not. However, if they do say something like, “I will do it if I can get a piece of cake,” then you have probably wandered into bribery land. But, all is not lost…guess what you need to say?
“Nope. I asked you to clean up your room. Let’s go.”
Bargaining is not a side effect of positive reinforcement. It is a side effect of positive reinforcement being used incorrectly.
Hope this helps