5 Reasons Why Rewards Don’t Reduce Discipline Challenges

Too many parents and teacher rely on rewards. They believe that if they reward children for doing something good, the need for discipline will decrease. In fact, rewards don’t reduce discipline issues because they don’t teach children how to be responsible. Here are 5 reasons why rewards don’t work.

1. Rather than a discipline strategy, a reward is actually a bribe. Young people do not need bribes to be good.

2. Rewards can be great incentives—if the person chooses to work toward the reward. If the person is not interested in the reward or does not work toward receiving the reward, it is not much of an incentive.

3. Rewards can be wonderful acknowledgments. They serve to give recognition.

4. Rewards for appropriate behavior are counterproductive.

(a) When we give students rewards for appropriate behavior, we send a false message. Society does not give such rewards. (When was the last time you were given a reward for stopping at a red light?)

(b) What comes of rewarding appropriate behavior can be understood in remarks like, “What’s in it for me?” “If I’m good, what will I get?” This approach undermines the social fabric of our civil democracy by encouraging selfishness at the expense of social responsibility.

(c) The message that a behavior is good because it is rewarded appeals to the lowest level of ethical values: “What I am doing must be good because I am being rewarded.”

(d) Giving such rewards does not foster moral development. Good or bad, right or wrong, just or unjust, moral or immoral are not considered. Instead, the determining factor becomes getting the “prize.”

5. Rewarding appropriate behavior implies that such behavior is not inherently worthwhile.

The point is important. Giving rewards for appropriate behavior is counterproductive to fostering responsibility.

NOTE: Don’t confuse employment—a contractual agreement of services for compensation—with rewards. When was the last time you thanked your employer for the reward of your paycheck?