For A Job Well Done

   By drodriguez  Mar 04, 2009

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?

Make a Comment

txcajunpepper by txcajunpepper | Houston, TX
Mar 08, 2009

As a teacher I believe that the student and teachers need some motivation in some form. Why not reward if you are going to punish for less than adequate test scores. It makes it really had as a teacher stay motivated when you are hardly ever told thank you. Without teacher there would be no tomorrow. Preparing a motivating students for standardized test is a daunting task due to so many reasons. First, there are the students who pass the test every year because they are so bright. Therefore, when we are attemptong to prepare students they are a distraction. Then there are the students who never pass. This wears on a student's mental toughness. Finally, there are the student who just are not motivated to pass this test,

justus by justus | WILMINGTON, OH
Mar 08, 2009

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?

caren5376 by caren5376 | Fairport, NY
Mar 07, 2009

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!

krwalker02 by krwalker02 | LaBelle, FL
Mar 07, 2009

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.

nwgardengirl by nwgardengirl | VANCOUVER, WA
Mar 07, 2009

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.

nanners520 by nanners520 | LINO LAKES, MN
Mar 06, 2009

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!

usfbubbles by usfbubbles | SEMINOLE, FL
Mar 05, 2009

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.

MommaGeorge by MommaGeorge | Beaverton, OR
Mar 05, 2009

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.

trigg93 by trigg93 | WESTERN SPRGS, IL
Mar 05, 2009

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

am_i_lost by am_i_lost | Centralia, IL
Mar 04, 2009

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"!!

jenndta69 by jenndta69 | SHERMAN OAKS, CA
Mar 04, 2009

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.