When results were declared, Sam jumped with joy because he knew a brand-new bicycle awaited him at home. Tara was excited as she was promised a surprise if she gets good grades. The joy of getting a reward and winning is unparalleled.
However, it is a common argument among parents whether good grades should be rewarded. There is always a debate around the benefits of reward versus making incentive an expectation.
We must remember, for most children, studying creates some stress. The expectation of good grades and relative marking inevitably causes children to come under a lot of pressure during exams. The good news is that research has shown that rewarding kids for good grades often does improve their performance. Rewards are a type of positive reinforcement that can help increase efficiency of studying. The major benefit of rewarding children when they study and do well is that it motivates them to do better next time. Consequently, children put in extra effort to complete their homework and study for their exams.
Also Read: Tackling Childhood Stress
The gift or value of the reward is entirely up to parents. Reward & Recognition are more about the thought, the gesture and the validation of a job well done. If your child does well in an exam, offer him praise or help create a valuable memory so that he feels inspired to do better the next time. Rewards can range from going out for a meal to their favorite restaurant to a week of staying up late or even a new cycle or a game of chess!
We must guard against Rewards being too easy or too difficult. If they are too easy, children will not value the effort or the outcome and take it for granted. Alternatively, they will not try for something that is unachievable and give up beforehand. Another risk in conferring rewards is that they can lose their sheen or novelty factor. Hence, one has to plan rewards for EFFORT, PROGRESS and SUCCESS! Children must always have something more to look forward to with increasing level of difficulty.
Here are a few simple techniques parents can apply to use rewards correctly:
Personalize Your Approach
Consider what your child needs for doing well in school. This can seem different from child to child, and a blanket focus on “good grades” may leave out important ways to celebrate the child’s strengths. If your elder child struggles with procrastination, you can reward her if she completes tasks ahead of time while your younger one may have a fear of numbers. In this case, you can set rewards for solving math sums daily.
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Use rewards judiciously
Use rewards for one specific behavior at a time. If you start using rewards for multiple things, your child may expect them for everything. This can confuse and overwhelm the child and can be exhausting for parents to maintain the list. For example, if you want your child to get better at English, start with rewarding one specific activity – such as solving 10 grammar puzzles a day. Once that becomes a habit, add a reward to 15 minutes a day of reading! All in all, outcome is achieved.
Focus on the goal, don’t make it about ‘monetary value’ alone
There is always an excitement in winning something or earning something on your own. This pleasure of achievement is more than the absolute value of what is received. Having said which, we also need to ensure that the reward is valued in some way or the other. It could be through recognition or through a physical toy or gift that they have wanted or even a little more pocket money. The aim is to create value in the process of achieving it rather than the monetary size of the reward.
Building stepping stones and milestones
Remember, you are dealing with children and that while the end goal is lofty, you need to break down the goal into smaller achievable goalposts that are rewarded. Every win will help them move one step forward towards the bigger picture that you are helping them with. If you want admission in the best colleges, they need to start now with better grades, for which they need daily practice and so on. Work backwards and reward the immediate behavior you need and move up from there.
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We all enjoy being recognized and winning in our own area of interest. Remember playing sports in school or even winning an elocution competition. The same logic applies to studying. If we can reward daily practice, make it fun, hand out a badge or a certificate, top it with a book or a game… your child will not focus on how much effort is needed or how difficult it is. Instead, she will focus on hitting the milestone and make you proud and win her wares! The entire process of learning will become more interesting and engaging, leading to a very positive memory apart from stupendous success.
“Brains, like hearts, go where they are appreciated.”