The unintended consequences of a reward system in the home

The unintended consequences of a reward system in the home

As we grow into parenting and start to feel frustrated that children are “not listening” we try the “reward system”.  At the time it may feel as though it’s working but it does fizzle out. Here is why.

Rewards decrease intrinsic motivation- what this means is we are in fact teaching our children to do things in order to get something. When we reward them (with a sweet or a gold star) for a certain behavior, or completing a task, they potentially then will start to view these behaviors as something that is only done in order to get the reward rather than because they are genuinely interested or invested in the task itself.

Rewards shift the focus from the activity/ behavior itself to the reward being offered. We cannot offer rewards to motivate behavior forever. It`s just not sustainable.

We can also fall into the trap of using money to say, pay for chores/tasks to be done. Consider that one day the child will need to do these things in their own home (with a wife or husband) and there will not be any money derived from these tasks.

So instead of offering rewards, we choose to do these things as a family, together. We take out the rubbish together, clean the dining area together, clean up toys TOGETHER. I have found being stood in the lounge telling kids to clean up is really just daft. It will only cause frustration and disharmony.

If you want your children to clean up after themselves consider doing the following:

Play the “who is going get the last toy in the basket game”. We all race to see who can get it in. This works every time.

A timer also works. Set a visual timer and we all work together to see if we can do it by the time the alarm  goes. You will be amazed at how fast the toys disappear.

Play a well known song – can you clean up before the end?

The above ideas can be adapted to any house hold chore really. Can we make our beds before the song is done?

The key here is to get involved. One day your children will be old enough to manage this on their own and they will opt to do it without you. Setting the groundwork by doing it all together for a few years is not only fun it does work and results in a lot less frustration on your part. Try it and let us know if it works for you too.

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