In Defense of the Jelly Bean

Should a parent give a child a tangible reward when he or she has behaved properly or performed some important task such as doing homework, or helping around the house? Understandably, many parents are hesitant to use incentives, such as prizes, or food treats, to influence their children, especially considering the negative comments by some, but not all, contemporary parenting experts. For many parents, giving their children rewards feels like bribery and to them, should be thus avoided. Some parents object to giving rewards, because they conclude, that a child will end up wanting a reward for everything he or she does! And to these parents, rewarding children seems wrong.

In truth, almost all adults, will only work and sacrifice if there is a reward. Typically, the reward is in the form of a paycheck, but sometime the reward might be personal honour, or fame. Children are no different!

There is a danger in not accepting that children require motivating. Children, when their efforts are not acknowledged can be "turned off" to learning and co-operative behaviour, which then can lead to developmental and social difficulties. For many children, simple praise is enough, to acknowledge their accomplishments. However, at times, and especially for very young children, praise needs to be combined with something tangible like a sticker, or candy, or an allowance.

As parents we must be realistic and practical. We cannot motivate a child with things they don't want, even if our intentions are to educate them in the "true and noble ways" of life. We all want our children to be co-operative about doing their homework, be helpful around the house, and respectful to others. Yet to accomplish these correct goals, we need to bend-down to the mental and emotional of the child, and offer a "jelly bean" and a bit of praise. Certainly, not all behaviour needs to be, or should be, rewarded. Most children seek to please and want, at times, to cooperate. However, and for whatever reason, for certain tasks or attitudes, if the child resists complying, this is a sign that probably a reward for compliance should be offered. Sometimes, a negative consequence should be assigned for refusal to cooperate, if the reward does not sufficiently motivate.

To be effective, rewards should always match the child's level of maturity. When the child outgrows a desire for Acandy and [email protected] he or she should be offered "nice clothes or money." As our children mature, it should be our goal to decrease external rewards and encourage more internal, self-motivating ones, and ultimately, when the child grows-up with spiritual and moral values, true altruism.

Children are very receptive and excellent learners. When they repeat a behaviour many times, it becomes "second nature." If we want our children to become exemplary adults, we must insist upon, and encourage, proper behaviour and attitudes when they are young.

Once a behaviour or attitude becomes second nature, it no longer needs to be externally encouraged. For example, if a child develops good study habits when young, as a result of parents having rewarded him/her for this behaviour, typically, as a teen and adult, he or she will continue to have good study habits, because it has now become a personal value, and external rewards are no longer necessary.

The best way is to acknowledge a child's accomplishments by giving generous praise and rewards. Tangible rewards help children improve in learning and good behaviour. Self-esteem is even enhanced since the child is being recognized for behaving properly. A child, and even a teen, likes to know they are doing a good job, and a tangible reward sends that message to them loud and clear.

Abe Kass, M.A., R.S.W., R.M.F.T., is the publisher of Wisdom Scientific self-help educational programs. Abe is also a registered Social Worker, registered Marriage and Family Therapist, certified hypnotherapist and award winning educator. He concluded, after many years of clinical practice and research, that practical solutions requiring a focussed effort of no more than a few minutes a day for very specific personal and relationship problem were critically needed. Wisdom Scientific publishing house has been created to fill this need. For more information or a free e-bulletin, visit http://www.WisdomScientific.com

In The News:

Allens puts parenting above profit in leave policy  The Australian Financial Review
How Children Evolved to Whine  The New York Times
Open-access parenting programme shows promise  University of Cape Town News

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