The great rewards debate

It seems that the question of rewarding children can be a good debate. I finally finished the Alfie Kohn book, “Punished by Rewards” and brought up some of the points tonight at a friend’s house. Most of my friends (many are teachers) swear by stickers and the like for their students (younger). I loved stickers as a child as well!

It seems that it boils down to external motivation versus internal motivation, and how the child needs to move towards being internally motivated in order to learn and grow.

Of course, I am not really internally motivating to practice the violin…though I love the violin, I am still externally motivated to practice. I don’t practice for fun or love of playing, I practice FOR things like a gig, an audition, a recital, or because I am afraid of sounding bad in front of people. I suppose if I’m not internally motivated now to play, I never will be. Then again, I do practice quite a bit…maybe it’s just that I was always shown that practicing was a means to an end? Or perhaps I just don’t love the violin as much as I love other things?

The author used the example of the “Book It” program as a bad program for getting children to read. This was a program from Pizza Hut where children got free pizzas for reading books. I loved reading books as a child, and also loved pizza–this program combined the two! Mr. Kohn suggested that the program didn’t make children want to read, and at most would make children eat too much pizza. I do recall that I always read plenty of books, regardless of the pizza, and hated when I was required to write a summary or something like that. I am definitely internally motivated to read–I read for fun, I read when I am bored, I read to entertain myself, I get lost in books and the time flies by. I don’t need a reason to read, and would probably list it as one of my favorite activities. Then again, I was brought up seeing my parents read all the time and learned from a young age how great reading could be. The pizza was just a bonus!

In any case, the book was thought-provoking, and evidently quite controversial. I will have to try out some of the ideas with my upcoming classes.

Random thought: I am writing a book report of sorts for fun here, and I’m not getting pizza for it (in fact, my trainer would definitely 🙁 upon the idea of pizza). I’m just doing it because I like to blog. Hmmmmm…also no one made me read the book…I read it because it was recommended by a teacher I respect and wanted to learn more about it.

(I guess it boils down to this: no one can motivate you to do something, you have to choose to do it. I think that is true.)

2 thoughts on “The great rewards debate”

  1. I would love to teach in such an ideal environment that recognition and positive response from parents and teachers were enough for a child.

    Also: aren’t applause and positive recognition “rewards” for a student? Or are we only talking about physical rewards?

  2. You are correct–the author considered positive recognition such as “Good job” to be a reward as well, and applause would also fit into that category.

    So imagine the environment where the child learned without caring about recognition!

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