Rewarding Expected Behavior

The following is from my soon to be released book, "parenting withoiut Stress: How to Raise Responsible Kids While Keeping a Life of Your Own."

Punishments and rewards are two sides of the same motivational coin. Rewards ask, “What do they want me to do, and what will I get for doing it?”  Punishments ask, “What do they want me to do, and what happens to me if I don’t?” In both cases, the attempt is made to manipulate behavior by doing things to, rather than with, young people. At best, such approaches bring only temporary compliance. Most importantly, the foundations of both are based on consequences. Carrots are no more effective than sticks for helping young people make responsible choices and become moral and ethical adults.

As indicated at the outset, this book is the result of numerous requests for me to write a book especially for parents based upon my previous book, Discipline without Stress® Punishments and Rewards: How Teachers and parents Promote Responsibility & Learning. The book is used in many college courses for those entering the teaching profession. However, many people entering teaching are still taught that it is essential to use external motivational approaches to foster responsible behavior. You decide if using such approaches uplifts and empowers students to behave responsibly.

The elementary school hired a substitute during the absence of the regular teacher.

Upon returning from lunch, a student asked if the class had earned a star to put on the bulletin board for the quiet way in which the class had returned.

The substitute didn’t understand the request and asked about the procedure.

Another student explained that when students enter the classroom quietly, the teacher puts a star on the bulletin board. When a certain number of stars are reached, the class is given an afternoon without any work.

The substitute asked, “But aren’t you supposed to walk quietly in the hall so that you don't disturb the other classes? Why should you earn a star for doing what is right?”

Students looked at each other, puzzled. Finally, one student explained, “We always get a reward. Why else should we do it?”


Half of all people entering teaching leave the profession within five years. As studies have repeatedly shown, a major reason has to do with discipline. My point, of course, is that these external motivational approaches are not successful enough with too many of today’s young people. Here is a challenge: Inquire if an approach as in the above story is used in the school your child attends. If so, take the initiative (Level D) to make a significant impact on promoting responsible behavior by sharing the approaches in this book with the school.