Rewarding Can Backfire

It is counterproductive to give tangible rewards to young people for doing things that they should be doing.

This belief was reinforced by the following e-mail I received from someone who had just subscribed to my free monthly newsletter, Promoting Responsibility & Learning.

“I found out about you from another teacher who told me about your website. I called and got info on the phone about signing up for the newsletter. I also ordered your book from Amazon.

“I had a situation this year that I did not know how to deal with. I had a very bright class who were lazy. Usually I am a very motivational teacher and do not use bribes. However, this class had been so bribed in the past that they were used to it, and so I decided to try the bribery system.

“Everyone but one student bought into the system. He wanted the rewards without having to earn them.  Finally, he started disrupting the class so constantly I could not teach and the students were not learning.

“I called his parent to have her sit with him. When she  came, she asked me if I wanted him to be taken home. I was so tired of dealing with him I just said yes. She then went to the principal to have him removed from my class. Although, he was not the constant irritant in the new class, he still didn’t do his work. Nothing of educational consequence was accomplished by the move.

He previously had told me he was mad at me for not just giving him the rewards. Maybe this is just a good example of how bribes can backfire.”