Monday, 6 October 2014

Should we reward expected behaviour?

How do you reward your children? Or anyone else's for that matter?

For your kids do any of these warrant reward?

Doing their school work.
Putting their clean clothes away.
Cleaning their plate and putting it in the dishwasher.
Making their bed and opening curtains.

Or is this expected behaviour that should go unrewarded?

I've long had a problem with the 'good middle' when it comes to children.  And what I mean by the good middle, is the children not particularly excelling at anything, but still plodding on with a decent and expected level of performance.

I've spent a little time mentoring in schools, and have had more than one disagreement with an inclusion manager or two on rewarding those that generally can't be bothered, and ignoring those that get on with it unaided.

I mentored one particular child who didn't see the point in writing stuff down, or proving to anyone else that they understood or could perform a task.  If they knew the answer to a question, that was good enough for them.  I've absolutely no idea why we were paired together.

However, to encourage this reluctant genius to complete work the inclusion manager suggested that they were rewarded with something, a favourite biscuit or treat, when they did.

There was loads wrong with that idea in my mind, even ignoring the more sugary crap in schools being a terrible idea.  Lets start with what about all the other kids that were getting their work done, in time, the generally unrecognised?

There were many amongst them that didn't find it as easy, nor wanted to do the work either, but it seems all we'd be doing would be providing an incentive for these kids to not do their work in the quest of getting on the 'encouraged with treats' list.

I know schools are under pressure for quick results, and therefore quick fixes, but that really isn't a game I'm going to play.

With my boy now nearing ten,  we've decided to have a weekly reward, or pocket money, which is provided on the basis of a few chores getting done.  Like those listed above.

We've not got a rule book, but have reduced the weekly reward for forgetting things, or not sticking to what we've asked for.  But we've also added to it, for things like getting elected to school council.

Our boy started getting the school bus this September, and we've been impressed with how easy he's taken to the change, and for staying out of bother when other children have been fighting at the bus stop, or straying onto people's gardens without care. 

It was not only good to reward him for this, but to also let him know I may have eyes and ears wherever he is.

Not having fixed rules for reward, also means we can hopefully avoid manipulation, a child that may repeat something purely for the reward, or worse, con us in to thinking they have.

I appreciate one method will never work for all children or families, and am very interested to learn about other ideas and successes and failures elsewhere.

Do share yours with me.

My Tips For Rewarding Kids

1. Keep the amounts low

£5 might not seem a lot, but to a child it can be huge.  Don't make it too easy for them to save for what they like to spend money on.  Even a couple of pounds each week adds up quickly.

2. Ignore the 'peer' pleas

"Johnny gets £10 a week and doesn't have to do anything at home." Like I mentioned what works for one won't work for another, and only trying to keep up or better someone else's arrangements will quickly lead to missing the point of rewarding.

3. Mix fixed rewards with random changes

Try not to make your rewards system too complicate, nor something that can be manipulated.  Sometimes rewarding a child once for something is much better than doing it overtime.

4. Explain reductions and praise

I like to explain, both the good and bad, when I'm dishing out a reward. And even weeks where nothing exceptional has happened, then that is a default good week that needs recognising.

5. Talk about goals

Talk to your child about what they could aim to save for, what really matters to them.  I leave my boy free to buy what he wants, but do point out when purchases have been instant hits quickly forgotten.