Rewards Cause Problems

rewards cause problemsNo matter what you call it or how you disguise it, rewards cause problems. Those who have followed my blog for any length of time or who have read any of my books know that I am a proponent of the fact that rewards don’t work.

Here is yet another real-life example that proves my point that rewards cause problems. You may find the following story disturbing enough to share it with others:

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

Upon returning from lunch, a student asked the substitute 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?”

Clearly, rewards don’t work.

Parents find that this entitlement thinking applies at home also. It is illustrated by the parent who is always persuading the child by offering rewards. Very quickly, the child learns to expect rewards, and then rebels when he or she doesn’t get them.

The book, PARENTING without STRESS: How to Raise Responsible Kids While Keeping a Life of Your Own, offers suggestions for breaking the reward cycle.

What is your experience with relying on rewards? Do you agree that rewards cause problems? I encourage discussion about this topic. Please feel free to share your comments on the Without Stress Facebook page.