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January 26, 2007 / missknowitall

Children For Hire

Little Miss,

How do I motivate my children without offering a reward for every good thing done–school work, chores, getting ready for bed, etc.?  My kids (some more than others) are motivated by rewards but I fear it is a short term fix and won’t help them in the long run.  Help! 

Dear Rewarding,

So, what will you give me if I answer your question?  Actually there isn’t anything wrong with using a reward system as long as it is working for you.  Reward systems can be tricky and dangerous, though.   Be on your guard for attitudes that reflect a “What will I get out of it?” mentality.  I think that the way we raise our children should prepare them for life as an adult.  Reward systems prevail in the adult world but they follow certain rules.  Make sure that your reward system reflects those adult rules.  For instance, my daughter wanted to earn money so I told her I would hire her to unload the dishwasher.  I paid her 10 cents for every time she unloaded it.  At one point she felt she had enough money so one night she said, “I don’t want to do it tonight”.  I sat her down and told her that that was her decision but that I needed to be able to depend on my workers, that if she chose not to do it tonight that she would be “fired” and would loose this money making opportunity and that I would offer the job to her brother.  Also, make sure that your rewards are “good” rewards.  Rewarding with candy, cheap disposable toys, or video game-time are fine, now and then, but they can create bad habits that you will regret in the future.  “Good” rewards would be money, books, art supplies, trips to the zoo, time alone with mom or dad, or have them earn points that add up for something big.  This way, when they are older, they will reward themselves with worthwhile things.  The last thing I will advise you to do is to encourage your children to “serve” at times without a reward so that they can experience working for the sheer satisfaction of helping others. 

Motivatingly yours,

Miss Knowitall 

P.S. Don’t forget to reward yourself for a job well done too!=)


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