Sep 9, 2011

Reward Charts and Childrens Behavior

        I wanted to write something about reward charts and children's behavior. If you are like me you have probably tried many different methods of reward charting, especially if you watch Super Nanny or have ever attended school.

First I want to out line some of the most common types of reward charting and the basic principles around reward charts. Schools often use reward charts as a way to control the behavior of the children by rewarding desired behavior. This has since been carried on to the home where parents are seeking to control or induce a more desirable behavior of their children.

The purpose of reward charts is to reward good behavior so that the child does more of that, and eventually looses the want for misbehavior simple because the reward is worth it. Seems simple and does work to reach those goals in many kids, but there are side effects, and the results can be short lived and fake! I will explain more about what I have experienced with my own children.

We all want our children to behave, be kind to everyone always, and never misbehave, I am so totally one of those parents! I want my kids to always be kind to each other and always be respectful, yes I know this is not realistic and this is why I'm writing this post.

Parents think that by controlling the behavior of their children, they will learn to become good citizens and good people. The truth is our children are already good people, and already want to be good citizens.

Children also want to be free and live a life that is not oppressed by others, sure they may not know what oppression means yet, but that is what they want! It is the same as what you want for your self, and just about everyone else!

I have learned so much through my so far 8 years experience with my own children. I have used reward charts in the past  mainly because many parenting and teaching experts say to use reward charts, stickers charts, ticket systems, and behavior check lists, to control children's behavior.

I have used many different methods of reward charting and have found that at first they work well, the child is motivated, it is new and different, and the reward is enough at first to induce desired behavior. After a few days it looses effectiveness for one reason or another.

I have also found that trying to keep up with rewards all day for good behavior to be exhausting, and my children were beginning to expect some kind of material reward for good behavior all the time. At first when children are real young stickers work well, the child gets older and stickers are not such a motivation anymore. Many parents move on to points, (count me as one of them) points can then be redeemed for a privilege or something that the child wants to do or have.

I remember as a child my mom, in a attempt to get me to want to learn, and behave in school, at one point was buying me toys for good grades. Many parents do this as well as use monetary rewards, especially for older kids. They say that they are preparing kids for the real world by preparing them for a job where behavior is rewarded with money.

The problem is when we reward children with material or monetary things we are not teaching them to be self motivated! I have found this to be true in my own children, and I am now just beginning to see this and making the changes in my home to reverse it, I am thankful to be learning this now!

It is the "whats in it for me" attitude! This is what reward charts and material rewards do to children. I have seen this first hand.

I started to notice that my kids began to be good or make good choices because they would be rewarded with some kind of material or monetary reward. They began to loose their self motivation and simply being good because they wished to be a good person and contribute in a positive way to the family team.

When we reward good behavior with material things we are creating materialism in our children, and the child begins to feel entitled towards rewards, instead of the internal good feelings that come from good behavior (good self esteem). Likewise children never really learn self discipline, and the drive to do the right things, simply because it is the right thing to do.

Children then equate what is right with what material things they will get for the behavior, this should be a big red flag in your mind right now! They learn that the behavior is only worth some sort of material or monetary reward. Instead of the true rewards that we want our children to create in them self, like feeling good about a job well done, and knowing that being a good person, and making good choices is worth so much more then some material reward.

They learn that A gets them B, taking out any real reasoning as to why they should or shouldn't do this or that. It is very self serving, and I am afraid that it is counter productive to what we really want to teach our kids.

These are not the messages I wanted to show to my children, and I can see that reward charts have not helped my child's behavior but made it worse! When I first started being a parent, my goal was for my children to listen, and do as they are told. I didn't see them as individuals who had separate goals and desires, I also expected them to act in ways that not even I could do! Another read flag!

I now am starting to see parenting as a group effort, the family team, and not a battle of wills! I will say that this is very hard to break out of, and the more we learn the better it gets.

I mentioned earlier that I want my children to be kind to everyone always, and never misbehave, I am sure you want this to, but think about this, do you always do these things?

Why do we as parents expect more from a child then we have accomplished our self? Just as we the adults have bad days, or days when we are not so nice to each other, children do too, and if they do not have positive modeling to show them the way then of course the behavior is worse.

I am sure you have heard the saying "do what I say, not as I do!" Unfortunately that is the modern day parenting mantra. So many parents expect too much from children, and in most cases they expect things that they them self haven't even done yet. We spank to show that hitting is wrong, or yell because he or she was mean to their sibling.

I know I am guilty of many of these inconsistencies in parenting and I am thankful to be acknowledging this now! I have noticed though that well behaved children are that way because of well behaved parents, and not because the children are forced to listen and do as they are told. In most cases when parenting efforts consist of a battle of wills, and do as your told philosophy, this only creates rebellious behavior later, and not to mention children hiding dangerous behavior from parents.

Now that I am learning more about how to behave so my children will too, I am beginning to understand how mutual respect and understanding is the key to great parenting and great relationships in general. I hope this is a first step for you to!

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