Monday, April 25, 2011

Rewards and Punishments

"Vacuum the floor and you will get to play your video game"

"Keep whinning and you will be grounded for the week"

"Do your homework and then you will get dinner"

We all have heard of parents saying the above comments in one way or another.  The idea of punishing and rewarding, in our society, is not uncommon at all and in fact, to most, are the norm.  Extrinsic rewards and punishments are used, so commonly, because "they get us what we want" from children, but at what cost?

The main arguement of using consequences and rewards is "it teaches responsibilty".  I would ask you stop, take 10 seconds and answer the question, "What does a responsible student look like?"


I believe most would label this student as one who follows the rules set out, does what they are told, is quiet in class, and truly compliant.  If this is what we want our students and children to act, then yes rewards and punishments will get us there.  They will give us obiedence and compliance, but only for a limited time. 

However, I hope no one wants complete obedience and compliance!  Alfie Kohn writes, in "Punished by Rewards",

Good values have to be grown from the inside out.  Praise and priviledges and punishments can change behaviour (for a while), but they cannot change the person who engages in the behaviour - at least not in the way we want.  No bevaioural manipulation ever helped a child develop a commitment to becoming a caring and responible person.  No reward for doing something we approve of ever gave a child a reason for continuing to act that way when there was no longer any reward to be be gained for doing so.

If you believe that true responsibilty is the ability to act carefully, make moral and thoughtful decisions and act in acordance with these judgements then we should be listening to Constance Kamii

If we want children to become able to act with personal conviction about what is right....we must reduce our adult power and avoid the use of rewards and punishments as much as possible.

1 comment:

  1. When we give children an if-then we are manipulating, not providing a consequence. For me a consequence is something like this: a child throws a marker and we take the marker away. Not forever, just for a brief period backed up with proactive language to set them up for success the next time they pick up a coloring tool. Because if we take it away forever then we are punishing. There's an intrinsic sense of distrust when we engage in punishment. We are really saying to children that we don't trust them and never will, that we have to make all decisions for them. When we do that we create children who can not make any decision (no matter how small) because we have never provided them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.