Today’s post comes from teacher and founder Nidhi Patel. It shares four rules to get rewards right.
I hear families who have problems and thrive when teaching children at home. Our new normal has changed many typical rules: the restrictions on screen time have largely been lifted and parents are using an ancient technique more than ever.
“Mom has an important call for 1 hour, ok, so you can play on your iPad if you can stay out of the room, deal?”
As someone who thinks a lot about it, parents often ask me: “Are my children okay?” The answer is, it can be yes. Rewards are actually an extremely important tool for building new skills – if used correctly.
How did rewards get such a bad reputation?
It happened in 1971 with an experiment with Stanford students by Edward Deci. He asked 24 students to solve a puzzle in 13 minutes. On the first day, if they weren’t done, he would solve it for them – and give them an intrinsic motivator not to want it to be done for them. On the second day, he paid half of them $ 1 to solve each puzzle. That day, he found that the paid students worked harder and solved more puzzles. On the 3rd day, he no longer paid any of them. This time, he found that those who were paid on the 2nd day didn’t make as much effort on the 3rd day. So he suspected that extrinsic motivation (money) was used to deter intrinsic motivation.
The researchers later found that on day 2 there was no statistically significant difference between effort and day 3. The researchers also found that the students already enjoyed playing the game – they already had an intrinsic motivation. Why would you reward children when they already enjoy doing the job?
- Rule 1 Getting rewards right means rewarding people for doing things they don’t like – like breaking habits or building new ones.
There are numerous studies on the effectiveness of rewards in lifting bad habits – such as smoking in pregnant women and building new habits such as exercise. Rewards are important if behavior is not already intrinsically motivated.
- Rule # 2 is that rewards should be based on effort rather than outcome. For example, a D student is likely not only motivated by a reward for getting an A – this may not be realistic. However, if the reward is tied to an additional 30 minutes of homework, the student can develop learning skills to improve their grades. Once this skill is developed, you should stop rewarding it and move on to another skill that needs an extra boost.
- Rule No. 3 is that the reward counts. Imagine that your boss told you that you would have to work an additional 30 hours this week, but he will get everyone an engraved pen on Friday. Rewards must hold value to increase value. If it is an additional pay or an equal amount of free time that is a useful reward, a pen is unlikely to motivate.
- Finally, Rule # 4 – and probably the most important rule. Autonomy must be built into the process. The child must have a choice. They have to choose what they work on, how or how they are rewarded. If your student gets Ds and you want to motivate him to work harder at school, let him decide how long and how many days he will apply and what he will get if he fulfills his goals faithfully. Without autonomy, we make reward-based competency building a transactional exercise – more like bribery – and that is probably not good for our children.
Reward is everywhere.
We buy gifts, we treat ourselves to evenings or other perks to try to do things that we would rather not do. We use extrinsic motivation to develop a skill – while that skill is being practiced, we develop intrinsic motivation to get better or practice harder without external motivation.
So, families, keep going and use rewards. Just focus again on building skills with autonomy –“For the next hour, you can either play a math game or read a book. If you do that, I’ll let you choose what we do for dinner. “
By: Nidhi Patel, teacher and founder of Kred Rewards – a free tool for parents that can be used to reward students’ skills kredapp.com
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