By Harriet ogbobine.
I WOULD like to reward my child, but I don’t want to spoil her or give her the impression that every time she accomplishes something, she deserves a treat. What is the best way to do it? Also how can I use rewards to change bad behaviour?
Mr. CY, Lagos
Many parents like you battle constantly with crossing the fine line between providing motivation to and spoiling our children with rewards (treats and gifts). This poses an even greater problem for more privileged families who have the means to afford those grander treats that are guaranteed to delight even the most conservative child. The problem with giving material rewards, however, is that like an addictive drug , their effects lessen with continued use and so, you have to keep increasing the dosage with time. Today, it is a trip to an eatery or a shopping mall; tomorrow, it is a vacation abroad. The stakes get higher as the child gets older and you either run out of rewards, or your child might now run out of appreciation as well. In most cases, she starts expecting such grand rewards as her right for being a good girl. Indeed, there are schools of thought in the field of education that completely oppose the reward system.
In Montessori education, for example, the belief is that the accomplishment of good deed/work should be its own reward and that we must bring up our children to imbibe the mentality of deriving sufficient fulfilment from successful completion of task, such that they don’t feel the need for further self-gratification. Whilst this is a most desirable trait worthy of encouragement in our children, social rewards are healthy part of family relationships and should always be put into consideration before any other. For instance, invest in hugs, smiles, nods, a pat on the back and praise. If like you say, you don’t want your child to have the impression that she deserves a treat every time she does well, then it is time to look into the solution, surely it is to restrict treats and make it occasionally.
In addition, any time you reward your child, tell him the reason why you have decided to show appreciation. Let the child know that it is because of this or that action or performance. Be specific with your reward. As a result, the child will then have a better understanding for your action. Children generally love to be appreciated. They cherish reward a lot and it gives them the zeal to do more. Once you reward for the right reason, you are really not spoiling the child. Instead, you are telling your child that you believe in her and also encouraging her to do more. Rewarding has a way of turning situation for good; it should not be seen as bribe which some people interpret it to be. Reward help to boost some children’s low self esteem, especially those struggling with personality issue for example. Children feel more confident when they know that their parents appreciate their efforts and this help to build their self esteem.
Moreover, why do some parents often shy away from letting their children know that they can’t always afford their notoriously costly reward requests? We should know that as parents, we can only give what we have. Yes, children sometime or rather most times want everything with the notion that mummy and daddy are capable. It is the duty of the parents to give reward in the right amount, in the right way, for the right things. In addition, keep it useful and simple. A visit to a friend, a book of their choice and so on are appropriate.
As for using rewards to change bad behaviour, first step is to educate your child on what you consider as bad behavior. In other words, explain youer dos and don’ts which I suppose every family has. Our values are different, so it is better for your children to understand your family values in order to be on the same page.
If you always reward them for doing well at school, but never for good behaviour, what does that tell them about your values? A lot of parents forget to reward their children for behaving well because they take it for granted. Children want to feel that you notice their action.
Next, you make her understand that she should take responsibility for her action. If she is of bad behaviour in school, she will have to lose a few of her cherished privileges at home such as watching television on weekends or something you know she appreciates.
Learn to be consistent as a parent and stick to your own rules, so she knows you cannot be manipulated. Good luck!