I recently read something interesting about reward systems: The greater the reward for an activity, the more we’re programmed to believe we dislike the activity.
For instance, 2 groups of people were told to pick up rubbish in a park. One group was paid more than the other, and then both groups were asked how much they enjoyed the activity. The study found that the group which got paid more found the activity less enjoyable.
So the more someone is willing to reward us for something, the more we must dislike doing it right?
Probably. But does it apply to children? Well, in a childcare environment, I can’t exactly force children to go around picking up rubbish. And there’s not exactly a lot to offer them in terms of rewards either, nor can I survey them at the end!
Nonetheless, here are some of the experiences I’ve had with reward systems:
Reward Finished? Good Behaviour’s Finished Too!
The children were asked to sit down nicely, and whoever sat the nicest would be allowed to feed the fishes. One child who is normally very “strong-willed” thus sat extremely well, and was given the reward.
As soon as she had fed the fishes however, she started being disruptive and challenging, and was put in time out within minutes!
Stickers, Pee And Poo
A less isolated incident would be a child’s toilet training experience, where he would be rewarded with stickers if he did well. This led up to the point that he would be eager to go to the toilet, and as soon as he’d performed his “task”, he would immediately demand a sticker.
Meanwhile, at home, not only did he have frequent accidents, but he actually hid under a table to do a poo!
Please feel free to share any success stories of your own though. On a separate note, the children actually enjoy picking up rubbish, because they like putting things in the bin.
I know, I’m not a big fan of either punishment OR rewards, so how do I get children to listen? I like the methods in the punishment article for instilling self-discipline, but it’s a gradual process which takes a lot of patience and effort. At least it feels like I’m building a proper relationship with the children, rather than just constantly threatening or bribing them.