Some thoughts on rewarding from a Discipline without Stress teacher

Shared by Robin Tzucker
on the Discipline without Stress Mailring:

One of the reasons I like this system so much is that it feels much nicer to be in a place where everyone is treated equally. Kids don’t always need the same things, so there will always be plenty of times when we need to give certain kids more of our attention, more time, more help, etc.—but that’s not the kind of equal I’m talking about.

What bothers me is that it often seems that the more behavior problems a child has, the more “rewards” they ultimately end up with. This may sound odd, because they certainly also end up with a larger share of negative consequences too—but in reality, this is often what happens when someone sets up a “behavior plan” for these kids.

A child who always does the right thing, does not need a reward behavior plan to get them to be cooperative, but the kids who don’t behave, get one. So what happens? Well, in some classrooms misbehaving kids get stickers every 15 minutes or so. Or they earn lunch with the teacher or principal, or prizes from a prize box, or a whole host of other rewards. What must the behaving kids think???

And I will disagree with anyone who says that the kids who typically behave themselves, understand that other kids need special treats more than they do—or that it doesn’t bother them. I have talked to too many kids (including my own), who years later, still resented the fact that the kids who bothered them, bullied them, disrupted the class, etc., were somehow rewarded, while the “good kids” were just told, “Keep it up, nice job.” In my opinion, any treat, whether it is tangible like a sticker or intangible like getting to be a helper in another class, needs to be available to ALL the kids who might enjoy that activity or treat.

Under the Discipline without Stress system, ALL the kids can have a popcorn party–not because Kevin stayed on task without hurting his neighbors for 30 minutes (Yes, it did happen in my son’s third grade class!), or because all the kids “behaved themselves all day”– but rather just because the teacher wants to treat all the kids to popcorn as a fun thing to do. In my own Discipline without Stress class, everyone gets a sticker simply because I found some really cute stickers to share–not because I’m doling them out every 15 minutes, the way the school psychologist wanted me to do, to encourage one boy to stay on task!

I am definitely NOT saying that all kids will get our equal attention in class, but I don’t think this is a problem. I believe that kids DO understand that some of their classmates will need more help from the teacher than others. A high achieving child takes pride and pleasure in working independently with opportunities to share her work; she does not need or want the teacher standing at her elbow, always helping or monitoring her.

When it comes to reward plans, I believe that they are damaging for ALL the kids:

• For those who receive them for doing what comes naturally to them.

• For those who willingly behave themselves, but aren’t recognized with a reward because “they don’t need one.” and;

• For those who misbehave–but end up with rewards anyway!

There are NO winners in such a situation.