I’m new to Discipline without Stress so bear with me. I’m wondering if whole-class incentives for staying on Level C or D is appropriate. For instance, if the whole class can stay on Level C or D for a certain amount of time, then could there be some sort of reward like a movie, free time or Preferred Activity Time? Does this completely fly in the face of Discipline without Stress? Are all incentives discouraged?
I can only speak for myself but here are several reasons why I, personally have decided not to offer incentives in my teaching:
1) The basis of the Discipline without Stress program is that it’s counterproductive to reward expected behaviors.
2) Once an adult rewards Level D behavior, it’s quite possible that the child’s level of motivation will be affected in a negative way. A student who is genuinely operating on a high level is doing so because of internal motivation. By rewarding students, you might actually be distracting them from the real reasons that they are choosing to operate on a high level. By giving incentives, you might actually be influencing some students to operate from a lower level––more from a desire to please you and/or receive additional rewards––rather than from a genuine desire to act on Level D. To me this is going backwards. I want to encourage kids to choose Level D more often. I don’t want to distract them by offering rewards.
3) People don’t tend to operate on just one level consistently. Even in the space of a few minutes a person’s actions and motivations can move through several levels. It’s pretty safe to say that almost no one on earth acts solely at Level D. I wouldn’t ask students to generalize about their behavior over a long period of time such as a week, or even an hour. I find it much more productive to have kids determine their own level, in their own head, in any given moment, with regard to a specific situation. I want young people to understand that they have an opportunity––in each and every small situation––to make a choice with regard to their level of operation. (The lovely thing is that if we look after the small moments of our lives with care, the bigger picture naturally improves without any extra effort!)
Personally I don’t use any incentives when teaching. Treats however, are a different thing. I do plan treats for my students (I frequently bake for my high school students as a treat.) and as one example, give my primary students a fancy little bag of Halloween trinkets and puzzle sheets at the end of October. “Free choice play time” for young students is an important part of our daily academic program in the area where I teach. When it fits into an learning theme or we are near a holiday time, we might watch a fun movie. But these are not rewards, they’re special treats. The difference is this: All students (regardless of their behavior) are included––and my motivation is not to get the kids to do something in order to get the treat. My motivation is simply to offer a gift or do something that is both fun and valuable.
I think it’s difficult for many newcomers to this approach to visualize teaching and motivating people without rewards. It does take a leap of faith to leave a “rewarding mindset” behind but I have personally found that with this system, I can use the Discipline without Stress Hierarchy to motivate kids to WANT to be at Level C and D––simply because it feels rewarding inside to choose to operate on a high level.
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