What to Do When Students Expect Rewards

In many classrooms across the country, teachers utilize the “colored card,” “stickers,” or “treasure chest” method of classroom discipline. Those who want to implement the Discipline Without Stress methodology wonder if it’s possible when the children are used to being rewarded so much.

Sound familiar?

The good news is that you can implement Discipline Without Stress effectively even if the other staff members at your school don’t follow a similar philosophy. Here’s how.

First, there’s no need to announce to your students that you don’t give rewards for expected behavior and learning—unless they bring it up. If they are conditioned to being rewarded heavily, it’s quite likely that they will! If and when they do ask for a reward, you might handle it in this way:

Refer to the Discipline without Stress Hierarchy and ask your students to consider this question: “What level is a person operating on, if he/she needs a reward from another person for doing a task?”

After your students realize that this indicates operation on Level C, you can ask and discuss further questions, such as:

  • Would I be doing you a favor if I encouraged you to do your work in order to get a sticker or a prize?
  • Would I be helping you to reach the highest level of behavior?
  • Which person is going to be a better student in the long run … someone operating at Level C or Level D? Why?
  • Even though someone at Level D doesn’t get a little sticker or trinket at the end of a lesson,
    what HAVE they gained?
  • Over time, which is more valuable?

Of course, any change takes time, but the investment is well worth it.