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Rewarding children for their obedience

We give our children chocolates to not disturb us while we are on the phone, or when we are working,…….we promise them extended play time at the mall if they obey our orders during the week, or ice cream post dinner, if they finish their food quickly. Hitting, disgracing and the punishing way of discipline is a story of the past, it is almost considered a ‘taboo’ to do so.

Rewarding Children For Their Obedience

Most parents reward their children for good behaviour, or an act of obedience. It is considered to be simple common sense, and a healthy parenting sign to reward children for the good they do. The praise-raise model is in talks all around, and dominates most psychological and educational theories. We have heard of seminars being held on ‘methods of rewarding kids’, you can well call it a trend.

So what’s wrong in rewarding them? It does help improve your child’s behaviour, and gets the task done.

When the chocolates or jelly’s stop coming their way, the obedience we were trying to build starts to fade off. It often makes children more expectant, for rewards or simply for praise, and it disappoints them when it does not come their way. It is also seen that children who perform in anticipation of rewards, generally kill their creativity, and quality of work. They tend to play safe, turn to quick fixes, and avoid challenges to cut down the turnaround time, and all this for winning the reward as fast as they can.

Let me give you an example here – My neighbourhood bookstore organized a book reading competition as a part of their marketing efforts, and invited children to visit the store and participate in the competition. Children were expected to read books, narrate summary of the story. Prizes were for children who finished reading first and could narrate the story to its best. There were pizza vouchers designated as prizes for the winners. The participation rate was quite high, but on closer inspection it was noticed that children were turning towards shorter books to quickly get done with reading, and the summary narration too went haywire.  Their accompanying parents expectation of knowledge building in their children, skill development and healthy competition, was all in vain, as the sole objective for their child to participate in this completion was winning free pizzas.

So what’s the difference between Rewarding kids and Bribing kids for good behaviour?

Most parents question the difference between a reward and a bribe, as in both cases, the child is getting something for obeying orders.

It is important to understand the thin line between the two. Bribery is an ongoing pattern, which will ultimately teach your child the ‘give and take’ model. When you are frustrated or embarrassed, and are in a dire need of a quick fix, you can then strike a deal with your child, and it works. It is simple negotiation. However, over doing it can make your child the controller. If this becomes a pattern, then you would be left feeling powerless and played. On the other hand, controlled and effective use of rewards, can be the game changer. It will help your child value what he gets, and respect the reward system, rather than taking it for granted.

Rewards normally work well when your child does something he does not wish to do, in the short term only. Most importantly, rewards should not be committed in advance, nor should you assure rewards for every accomplishment. Rewards can be activities with parents, or privileges that are otherwise not available to your child.

Here are a few ideas on smart rewarding:

Going to the park, Getting in bed with parents, asking your child to help in planning the day’s activities, Longer time in the bath tub, Letting him help in the kitchen, Going on a trip to the zoo, Piggy back ride, Extra television time, a Special dessert, you can even do a puppet show for your child.

Make rewards less materialistic, and see the difference. Also, avoiding rewards does not mean not expressing your love and delight for your child when they do something good. It is absolutely essential to join their celebration, and make it special with your acknowledgement, appreciation and encouragement. Here are a few simple things we can keep in mind while we praise them for their achievement.

As a parent, emphasise and turn their focus on the pleasure they derive from their accomplishment. More than anything else, that should be the motivator for their next milestone.

Try your best to comment on the displayed behaviour, not the person. Be as specific as you can, and highlight what you like best in the act. For eg: you can say,” I loved the way you sang”, instead of saying, “You are the best singer in your class”. Another important aspect is to let them self-evaluate their performance, this helps them understand their potential, and also helps them appreciate self.

Praising and rewarding comes naturally to us, and we may have to put in continuous efforts to replace it with pure appreciation and acknowledgement.Obedience, discipline, and good behaviour, are long term goals which need your time, role modelling, communication, and effective rules. Enable your child to do things for themselves, instead of ending up doing it to merely to impress.



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