Here are the top 5 reasons why relying on rewards for discipline is a losing strategy:
1. Rewards Can Promote Failure: Rewards open the possibility of failure—failure to obtain the reward and failure to please the parent. In addition, the possibility of failure inherently brings fear of failure. When a child is afraid, the emotion is so powerful that thinking and effort are diminished.
2. Rewards Can Diminish Self-Confidence: Giving rewards on a regular basis can prompt youngsters to think the only things that are important are those for which they are rewarded. The result can be a diminished appreciation and disregard for their natural talents and preferences.
3. Rewards Infer an Unpleasant Task: Why would someone take the trouble to set up a reward unless the task would be difficult or unpleasant? Offering rewards works against the satisfaction that comes from the diligence and perseverance of completing such tasks.
4. Rewards Redirect Satisfaction: Giving rewards for expected standards of behavior deprives children of the satisfaction that comes with doing what is socially responsible and right. The highest, most meaningful and significant reward is not what a person gets from outside of the self, but rather the satisfaction and joy that he or she experiences within.
5. Rewards Affect Character Development: The use of rewards has a damaging effect on character development. Studies at the University of Toronto and Arizona State University show that external rewards for socially responsible behaviors are associated with less commitment for helping, caring, and sharing over the long haul.
In short, if you want to instill self-discipline in youth, rewards are not the way to go. While they may seem kinder than punishments, they are simply another external approach that leads away from the goal of promoting responsibility.