Classroom Management, General

Rewarding in the classroom – should we be concerned?

“Learning should be a reward in itself!”

This is the philosophy my husband and I use to raise our children. We firmly believe that rewarding children for every single thing they do isn’t healthy. Rewarding children because they are good students or because they are well-behaved and apply themselves in school, will not teach them anything of value.

In my opinion, it is far more important to show our children that we are proud of them and their achievements. It is far more important to be supportive of their needs and let them know how much they are loved. I also believe that challenging and encouraging children to seek knowledge is a better form of promoting their confidence in their own abilities.

 

Rewarding in The Classroom - Should we be concerned about rewarding students for their achievements? Shouldn't rewards be intrinsic?

 

As a parent, it sometimes troubles me to see teachers and other educators use reward systems to “control” behavior issues or improve study habits. Although I have no problems with classroom management techniques that help students take ownership for their progress, I find that systems that encourage good behavior and good grades in exchange for a reward could be detrimental to both students and teachers alike.

Wouldn’t we be teaching our children that they should only apply themselves when or if there is a reward at the end? Couldn’t this way of thinking backfire in terms of creating individuals that will only try their best, that will only invest their full effort, if they can gain something from it? Won’t this teach our children that self-contentment and self-respect can only be achieved when material rewards are offered for their efforts?

Are we helping children to develop a sense of entitlement?

As any other parent or teacher, I like to reward my children and students once in a while. There is nothing wrong with it, in my opinion. However, when it is done every single time something good is done, doesn’t the excitement start to wane? Plus, when we constantly associate rewards with certain achievements, shouldn’t we fear that these rewards will become an expected thing? Wouldn’t that create a sense of entitlement? What about the risk of disappointment when a reward is not provided?

As parents, my husband and I don’t reward our children for their good grades. Instead we focus on encouraging them to learn more, to discover more unknown facts, to try and figure out what else they can do to enhance what they achieved so far. It is their choice to follow that path or not, but at least they know that we value their efforts and their abilities.

Showing how proud you are in your children and/or students can easily be achieved with a simple “Good job! I’m so proud of you!” And believe it or not, most of the time, that means more to children than a dollar store trinket or the expensive gadget you decided to gift them with.

In a society that sees material gains as proof of achievement, shouldn’t we be teaching our children and/or students to seek reward in their own feelings of fulfillment and accomplishment? Shouldn’t we teach them to feel happy because they have learned so much, or because they behaved so well, and not just because they have been rewarded? Shouldn’t the reward be those actions themselves?

Food as reward might lead to serious health issues in adulthood…

Another thing that bothers me is the frequent use of food as a reward…

As someone that has always struggled with weight issues, this particular system feels very personal. I am an emotional eater who associates food with a sense of happiness and well-being (even though I regret it later 🙂 ). I find it troubling that it is becoming commonplace for teachers and parents to reward children with special food parties or candy giveaways. It is unsettling to me, that children all over the world are associating good behavior and good grades with unhealthy treats! In my opinion, this will reinforce the idea that food is a synonym of happiness and fulfillment.

Don’t get me wrong, we allow our children to have the occasional treat of sweets and fast food (hey, just take a look at my cakes 🙂 ). However, isn’t it bad enough that we are encouraging expectations of rewards? Do we really have to contribute to bad eating habits on top of it all? Using food as rewards is not a healthy classroom management system!

In my very humble opinion, classroom management (or parental guidance) does not have to involve constant rewards. Save the rewards for very special occasions. Make them an unexpected surprise. Better yet, teach your students/children to find reward in their sense of accomplishment for something done well. Teach them to do much for others and for themselves, while expecting nothing in return. And most of all, teach them how to feel good about it!

Teach them how good it is for them to know that they gave their very best and received a good grade in that hard assignment. Teach them how rewarding it is to know that they behaved in class because that is the right thing to do. Most importantly, teach them by example! Show them respect. Show them that you care and tell them so, too! 🙂

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I would like to leave here a very special Thank You! to my friend Sherri from Literary Sherri, for her willingness in helping me edit this post.

Please contribute to this post. What management strategies do you use in your classroom or with your own children at home? Share your point of view in the comments below.

Thank you for reading 😀

Take care,

Catia

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Sherri
    May 13, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    Like you, I place HUGE importance on helping students develop intrinsic motivation. I wholeheartedly agree that when rewards are used as a management strategy to incent good behavior, students quickly become externally motivated and that is when they develop a sense of entitlement. Since I teach teens, I understand full well how nearly impossible it is to help externally-motivated students become internally motivated and how difficult it is to inspire and/or motivate students who feel entitled to tangible rewards for the smallest efforts. I especially appreciate the connection you made to intrinsic motivation being directly tied to a child’s greater sense of self-worth and confidence!

    As for using food in the classroom, if food is going to be used as an occasional means of recognizing positive behavior, I love the idea of using snack-sized apples, small oranges, bananas, baby carrots, or raisins. We can do so much to help our students connect food with healthy choices by substituting junk-food in the classroom with nutritious food!

    Thank you for inspiring readers to think critically about important issues! I love your perspective of “Strive to teach children to be intrinsically motivated by finding self-worth in a job well done and reward them occasionally!” This one small change could have a HUGE impact on greatly improving our educational system!

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