Rewards and punishments

I've posted before on rewards and punishments in parenting, mostly related to Alfie Kohn's book Punished by Rewards, but here's another take on the same idea, over at Katrina Roe's blog. Katrina interviewed Louise Porter, a child psychologist and author of the book Children are People Too on her radio show recently and summarised it in her article. As food for thought, here is part of it:

If you want your kids to tidy their room and you offer a prize to the child with the tidiest room, they may tidy up, but they probably won’t help each other.  Instead the child who doesn’t receive the prize may feel resentful of the one who did.  After all, they both tidied their rooms.  Instead, you could offer a collective reward, “If you all tidy your rooms quickly, then we can go to the aquatic centre for a swim as soon as you’re finished.”

 Of course, the reward we all use most frequently is our praise.  While it seems logical to offer children praise when they do well, too much praise can be a bad thing.  You don’t want your child to be always needing praise to feel good about themselves and their achievements.  Instead, acknowledge their achievement, without overstating their brilliance.  For example if your child is improving on the piano, you can say, “Congratulations, I can see you’ve been practising.  You should be proud of yourself.”  Rather than saying, “Clever girl, aren’t you wonderful!”

 You might be wondering what the difference is.  Well one is encouraging them to enjoy the achievement for it’s own sake.  Whereas the other implies they need to be dreadfully clever to earn your approval, which may discourage them from persisting at tasks they don’t naturally excel at.  Or they may play the piano only to please you, when they really don’t enjoy it at all.