Are Rewards Bad for Motivating Your Child?

Are extrinsic rewards bad for motivating your child? That’s the question Chris Gleason, a music instructor and finalist for National Teacher of the Year, recently asked after his son stopped reading as soon as he achieved a pizza coupon.

In an editorial for Education Week, Gleason reflected on his own experience as a music teacher where he issued practice charts and gave students a set amount of practice time that would earn an “A.”

“I have found that when practice minutes or grades are the focus,” he said, “students will work only to the point that triggers the reward and no further.”

Instead of offering gimmicks or a reward program, Gleason now prefers to show his students a video or a child learning how to walk and emphasizes to teachers the need to work with children instead of doing things to them.

“We need to fan the flames of curiosity in every child and foster their love of learning. We can tap into intrinsic motivation by providing students some autonomy. How often do students have a say in what they do, when they do it, and how they do it?” Gleason asked. “Intrinsic motivation is also the desire to get better at something that matters to us. Mastery is the realization that getting better takes time, effort, and persistence.”

What do you think? Is there a time and place for extrinsic rewards? If so, when? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

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