SHESPEAKS Your Power to Influence

For A Job Well Done

SS Member Image By drodriguez 03.04.09
For A Job Well Done
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The concept of rewarding a child for learning something new or performing well in school is very popular among parents and teachers.  From the time our children are babies many of us reward them with both small and large gifts for anything from behaving in a grocery store to bringing home a good report card.  There are some however who feel this type of reward system can be damaging to the way a person learns.  They believe it can make children work hard for the reward rather than the joy of learning and may even lead to cheating. 

A recent New York Times article discusses the effects of rewarding students within our education system. Dr. Barbara Marinak, assistant professor at Penn State opposes the idea of using prizes as incentives and told the New York Times that whether the reward system works or not "continues to be a raging debate."  As you can imagine, there is a lot of data in support of both sides of the issue. 

Many schools across the country offer incentives to students who perform well on tests as well as teachers who turn out higher scores overall for their class.  A school in Dallas, Texas has reported that students who were rewarded scored higher on their SAT and enrolled in college more than those who were not being rewarded.  Though this news sounds positive for reward programs, research has also shown that incentives may only work in the short term and have damaging effects in the long term.

A study conducted by Dr. Marinak and Linda B. Gambrell analyzed the effects of rewarding third graders with tokens like toys and candy for reading.  The study reported that the reward system actually diminished the amount of time the children spent reading.  Dr. Marinak said, "A number of the kids who received tokens didn't even return to reading at all."

With conflicting reports from both sides of the argument, the answer to whether a reward system is beneficial may lie somewhere in the middle.  Dr Mark Lepper from Stanford believes that what is being offered as a reward may be an indicator of a reward system's success.  Dr. Lepper points out that an incentive program may backfire if you give a child something arbitrary like bubble gum for passing a test.  If a system uses rewards that relate better to an activity, like getting to read more books after one book is read successfully, there may be more of a chance of it working.

What do you think of the benefits of reward systems in school and at home?

What kind of incentives do you offer your children for a job well done?

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  • jenndta69 By jenndta69

    Personally I believe reward systems work. You always get a better result from a positive than a negative. We don't work for free right? We get rewarded with a pay check. When our daughter cleans her room or does something for us in the house (without asking) or does a really great job in school, we will treat her. It usually something that we can all enjoy as a family, like movie night or we will pick her up after school on Friday and all go to dinner.

  • am_i_lost By am_i_lost

    I agree. Reward systems; in my opinion; seem to work out well. It doesn't have to be something that is going to break the bank either. Just having something to look forward to or the recognition of what you have accomplished to receive your "reward" is to true "prize"!!

  • trigg93 By trigg93

    A reward system works great, kids respond well to it. The reality is that we live in a reward based society.

  • MommaGeorge By MommaGeorge

    I use to work with behavior disabled children and boy were they a challenge! But that is another story. We did use rewards for positive behavior, but we 1st had to figure out what their currency was. And guess what ...most of the time it was "time" individual time, to play a game, eat lunch with..etc. Maybe it was with a friend, but most of the time it was xtra time with a family member (mom or dad) or an adult if family was not available for the reward. ~~ Nothing takes the place of a mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle or someone that they know cares about them to take a little time. ~~ I used to give my kids a choice of staying up 1/2 hr later than bed time from the time they were very little, BUT it had to be used for only reading, no TV, no playing. By the time they were school age they LOVED reading at bed time all the way through school.

  • usfbubbles By usfbubbles

    I agree with trigg93. We live in a reward based socisety or a "what's in it for me?". Along with those rewards, consequences can be used as well.

  • nanners520 By nanners520

    As a teacher, I know that rewards are great motivators for kids! I think though, that the rewards don't always have to be candy or toys.... and these types of rewards are things that can lead to students only doing the work to get the reward. Some of the rewards students can earn in my class could be a bring your stuffed animal to school day, wear a hat to school day, or extra play time at recess. I do give out toys and candy occasionally as an extra motivator, but I've found that when you make learning FUN, it is the best motivator of all!

  • nwgardengirl By nwgardengirl

    I believe in a reward system. But I don't always agree with the reward. Praising a child verbally/emotionally for good behavior or accomplishment can go much farther than most imagine. Children unconciously seek approval from parents. Communicating in a positive way is much healthier in the relationship. Monetary and material items seem to be bribes and are quickly forgotten as well as become expected from a child and the result can be disrespectf and/or have a sense of entitlement. When they grow up they will not be rewarded so easily for a job well done.

  • krwalker02 By krwalker02

    I am a 4th grade teacher and I have found that extrinsic reward systems tend to ware off in value by the time the students reach my class. What you're left with, is children who are not motivated to be successful unless you're dangling a cookie. Sometimes you have to do your very best not for the reward but because it's simply expected and required.

  • caren5376 By caren5376

    People are allowed to discipline their children when they do something wrong and we are expected to as good parents.So,I see nothing wrong with rewarding children for doing something good.However there is an extreme either way.Hitting your children for doing something wrong is too much and I also think that big gifts are too much.What ever happened to praising your children being enough?Simple discipline is also enough.As long as children know they are loved it should be enough!

  • justus By justus

    I think every child should be aware of the expectations put on them by parents, teachers, - life in general. Rewards for everyday success in life in unrealistic. However, as adults we are usually rewarded for a job well done, or for going over and beyond expectations - most often in the form of a raise at work, or an extra tight hug and I love you at home. Children should be entitled to the same benefits. If my child does take the steps beyond normal drive and pushes himself into overdrive, darn right he gets rewarded. Lots of praise is always available, but these special times deserve much more. Isn't it our job to prepare them for the real world?

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