“Rewards sometimes reduce the behavior we target.” I thought, “…well it sure isn’t working then is it!” I continued on reading to see how we sometimes work against ourselves with rewards. When a reward relies upon extrinsic (external) rewards, when the reward is dropped the behavior will be also. For example, if I’m the parent of a family and sometimes the kids help with dishes and sometimes they don’t, and so we set up a reward system. Before the reward, they occasionally helped, because it was a good thing to do, now they always help and they get “x”. It seems to be working to me. They learn they can count on a reward. The dishes get done regularly so we think the reward system has worked and now we are starting a new school year and want to rework the system and drop the reward. Likely, the help with dishes stops dead in its tracks as the reward is gone. We trained the kids to look for the external reward, it is gone and so is the help. Have you ever asked a child to do something and they ask, “What will I get for doing it?” a sign we have helped the extrinsic (external) reward system develop excessively.
When you stop at a red light the primary benefit (reward) is you don’t get hit (or ticketed). In paying the rent or house payment, you get to keep your humble abode. Making dinner for the kids, maybe you get a little thanks, but you feed the family, get holy, stay healthy and so do they. There are probably not a lot of external rewards there for doing what you do daily. You do the tasks because you love your family and want to provide for them, and it is a very good thing to do, God is pleased.
This year we are implementing a new behavioral program called “Discipline Without Stress, Punishment or Rewards”. The text, by the same name, authored by Marvin Marshall, rings true with daily life as well as with our faith. The essence of the program hinges on positivity, choice and reflection. There will be fewer standard consequences, and more reflection on the part of our children, as we implement the program. In the end, we hope to foster internal motivation in the hearts and souls of us all. That’s a pretty lofty goal, but progress can be made, and clearly will need to be made if we are to be good Christians in the world in which we live. We will be talking more about the program at Back to School Night. If you are the least bit inclined, I recommend the book. Several teachers have tried it at home after reading the book as they prepared for the school year, and said it worked very well with their children.
May the Lord help us to give a good home in our hearts and souls to the graces he sends daily.