As part of doing behavioral technique with children, parents and teachers (even psychologists) need to use rewards – stickers, pencils, bookmarks, or going to their favorite restaurant. It may seem easy to decide what kind of rewards to be given, but turns out it is not that easy. There are some factors that affecting the effectiveness of giving rewards to our children:
- With early exposure to money and presents, children will easily ‘devalue’ the rewards given to them. Expression like, “I have a lot of stickers at home, I don’t need yours” or “My mom can buy me a whole lot of stickers like you have” are becoming familiar in the ears of teachers. Some children are no longer able to appreciate their own effort which symbolized with the stickers or any other rewards. Hence, stickers are no longer effective for this kind of children.
- Parents want to ‘give the best’ for their children, therefore they avoid to give some easy and cheap stickers or other goods and move to expensive toys. They do not aware with the effect of raising the bar of valuing rewards for their children. I had this case before, when a mom wants to keep buying new set of robot toys every time her son was able to control his habits of screaming. My advice went with the wind and she did what she felt was right. After a while, she came back to me and whined that reward system was no longer effective for her and her son.
- Effectiveness of reward system may also be interfered by the inconsistencies of giving rewards – especially in young children. They know that they have to behave well within 6 days of the week and on the 7th day, they can have their favorite ice cream (and hopefully keep their behavior well). When parents delay the reward for no apparent or urgent reasons, the effectiveness will walk out the door. Children will no longer eager to seek the reward of their hard work in 6 days, because they believe that their parents are not appreciating their effort.
What can we do then?
Reward system is still believed to be an effective way to shape new behaviors in children, and it is proven to be more effective that giving punishment to our children. It depends on how we – as parents and teachers – work through the whole system. If we want our children to learn and appreciate process, then reward system can be accustomed to our daily habits at home or schools. We can also express the importance of delaying gratifications, because at the end of the uncomfortable schedule, there will be bigger prize to win – which will make children believe in themselves that they can actually delay their instant demands.
If it’s worth to try, why delay? (CE)