Do you have some sort of reward system in place for chores? Do you reward yourself when you lose a certain amount of weight or work out every day for a week? Do you pay your kids for good grades, or take them for ice cream if they read a certain number of books? When my boys were playing baseball, I knew a parent who paid their kids if they hit a home run. Perhaps you give your child a treat if they finish their veggies, or a reward when they finish their math.
Rewards are an odd thing. We’ve probably all used them at one time or another. You’ve probably read articles about using rewards to help establish new habits or change behavior. The thing is, offering rewards can actually sabotage your efforts, and they should be used with caution and intention.
I’ve always been leery of rewards and have seen a great deal of negatives when rewards are overused. Let’s examine a few instances to see the danger.
The chore reward system, there are lots of these. In some kids put up stickers as they do their chores and earn a reward at the end of the week. In others, kids start out with a certain amount of money and if they don’t finish their chores, money is deducted from their ‘allowance’. In still others parents post jobs they want done with a dollar value attached and children can choose which chores they want to do to earn spending money. You can probably come up with many more.
In our house, every member of the family did some of the work, because we are a family. There were regular chores the boys did every morning and on the weekends there was yard work or cars to wash. I didn’t pay the boys for these things because they are part of the family and once they were old enough, they took on some of the responsibility and work to keep things going.
When I knew one of them was trying to save money for something (usually another musical instrument) I might offer to pay them for some work, but that wasn’t the norm.
I think I tried the pay system once or twice but abandoned the idea quickly because it led to an attitude of entitlement. It seemed that those systems quickly sent the message that they should be reimbursed for every contribution they made…and that wasn’t going to work for me. (more…)