Saturday, July 19, 2008

she's not this cute all the time.

I just figure no one wants to hear about her temper, or her whiny-ness... so you all get to hear only the cute bits.

It starts with this interesting book I am reading called Punished by Rewards. I am only on page 15 or so, but it has set my brain to whirring (squealing?) and I have become much more conscious of just how many things I try to get my kids to do, essentially, by bribing them. I have tried to convince myself for years (almost 7 years now) that rewarding is different than bribing and just overall a more acceptable tactic. It comes down to asking myself what is their motivation for acting as I require? As in, was the impending reward known to them from the beginning, or was it an afterthought on my part? If they lose a privilege, they can often earn it back if I see that they have indeed changed their ways for the right reasons, and not just to earn it back.
So, Mia had developed a poor habit which relates to bathroom visits. To rid this poor habit, I offered a twizzler in exchange for each successful... visit. I had recently purchased a 5 lb tub of the chewy red candy. Of course, it worked, but all the while I am thinking how do I wean her off the twizzlers? She ain't gonna forget. Mia and I actually had a very funny discussion about who was going to explain to her husband why she had to have a twizzler after every bathroom visit. The day I ran out of them you can bet she returned to the poor habit as quick as you can blink. So it goes to say that you can elicit repeated 'good' actions, but as a long term, lasting method of changing behavior, offering rewards fails horribly. And it seems this must be common sense. As I have it written here, it makes perfect sense. Why, then, do teachers use stickers to reward children? It has no long term effect, and indeed, I think it is quite damaging in the long run. Children who are rewarded at the slightest turn of the head, begin to perform for the reward (the wrong reason), not for the intrinsic value of the behavior. And, on closer examination, you'd notice they only do as much as is needed to get the reward. I think it is used in classrooms because it is easy. Plain and Simple.

Anyway... Later that same afternoon, she said, 'well can I have another kind of treat then?' 'Well what did you have in mind, Mia?' 'Ummm, whatever you can think of that's not dirt.'


maryellenlewis said...

Kids will say anything! I totally agree about rewards not working. I did bribe C. to potty train but took away the reward and replaced it with praise pretty quickly. I'm not sure she really noticed.

Joelle said...

Putting that book on my list as I JUST posted about giving Skittles to my 3 year old... :)