“Rewarding children for ‘good’ behaviour may appear to work in the short term but don’t rely too heavily on using them as they won’t always be there and neither will you.” – BM
Perhaps you haven’t thought about it in this way before…
* Rewards can successfully shape behaviour for the better (no argument there) BUT when they are consistently used as currency to get what we want from children, over time we begin to lose our ability to guide and teach them in the context of the natural parent-child connection.
* Paradoxically rewards may inadvertently work against what many parents are intending to do, which is to raise their children to become self-controlled, responsible, considerate human beings from the inside out.
* Rewards convey an ‘I’ll- give-you-this-to-get-something-I want-in-return’ energy. This bartering system actually puts children in the ‘power seat’ as they get to decide whether or not they are going to do as we ask.
Although parents might think they’re the ones ‘holding all the cards’ because they’re the gatekeeper of rewards, what we’re actually doing is revealing our parental impotence because we need their co-operation in order to get what we really want, which is their co-operation, and children sense this.
Ironically, what we want from them is usually what would be best for them but the reward shifts the focus off that and it becomes more about the child feeling manipulated and coerced rather than guided towards giving true co-operation.
This sort of power struggle within the relationship makes the parent feel incompetent (because they need to bribe) and leaves the child feeling insecure (because they’re inadvertently put in charge).
It may surprise you to know that it doesn’t feel good to a child to boss a parent around and make demands because this is outside of the natural order in which the mature are meant to guide and take care of the more vulnerable so that the child can experience being at emotional rest in the relationship.
* Rewards (although pleasant and exciting) unconsciously insult the child-parent relationship because they convey to the child that we don’t trust or believe they want to ‘be good’ for their own authentic reasons.
* Rewards inevitably run out of runway. As children get older and wiser, they typically begin to negotiate the deal in order to make the exchange seem more worth their while. When expectations get bigger, parents can’t always live up to the demands and as a result, neither party gets what they want and hostility and frustration escalate and erode the relationship.
* Rewards won’t always be dangled in front of our children by those who expect their co-operation and consideration. Once children are old enough to engage with others outside of the home they will be expected to behave in certain ways and complete certain tasks without there being a ‘good job’ or a carrot for reinforcement.
* Rewards indicate to a child that we believe they value rewards more than their relationship with us. (Which might be the case when they are young and immature and enthralled with treats and novel stuff but as they grow up and gain perspective, the attraction of getting more stuff begins to feel superficial and starts to fade as they begin to realize that deep relationship is more valuable, meaningful and fulfilling).
Caveat: Don’t get me wrong, as parents we all reach for rewards sometimes and they can certainly get us through some trying situations, at least some of the time. They key is not to overuse them or rely on them too much because they don’t always work in the way we intended them to in the long run. Think about it.