Photo by Vitolda Klein on Unsplash

Between motivation, rewards, punishments, and discipline, a lot of room can be left for misinterpretation. On any normal day, parents can often make the simple mistake of correlating motivation with rewards and punishments with discipline. However, that won’t happen on our watch. 

As we’ve had your back with the distinction between punishment & discipline to help better ace your parenthood, we’ll be shedding light on two sides of the same coin. Rewards & motivation, and how to effectively use them with your child. 

“Rewards” is a softened term for Punishment

We often reward children by providing them with extra screen time, a new toy, chocolate, and candy, etc. This creates more value to these items with which we are rewarding the child. Eventually, the child will look forward to these rewards and even see them as a positive thing. At the same time, parents marvel when they struggle with taking their children off the iPad or making them consume fewer sweets.  

By rewarding a child with a piece of candy after finishing a plate of salad, the child’s brain will automatically interpret the plate of salad as a punishment, whereas the candy is the grand prize.

The Outcome of Rewards

 The child who grows up being rewarded for every little or big task they do. Eventually, they will take that behavior into the world and with people outside their families. This means that the child will expect a reward and an outcome from friends, teachers, and other family members, for doing basic tasks. Once this reward isn’t provided, the child will be shocked and will believe that either their work was not good enough, or that these people did not value their behavior with a material/physical reward.

If we raise children on the feelings of pride and accomplishment when crossing off a task, these fulfilling feelings are the reward to their work. These feelings will eventually be their motivation to work harder and achieve more.

It’s important to differentiate between motivation and rewards. Motivation creates an internal feeling of drive within the child to achieve more and isn’t linked to material objectives. On the other hand, rewards are usually linked to material and external items, and almost never create that inner motivation. In such cases, the child usually ends up performing a certain task not for the sake of it, but for the sake of the reward itself.

Children, who are used to being rewarded, will often shy away from challenges in fear of losing the promised reward at the end of the task if they were to fail in performing it correctly. In addition, the child, who is constantly being rewarded, will feel like they are constantly being judged and evaluated.

Ways We Can Motivate Children:

  •  Paying attention to the effort they make. By letting the child know you are aware of the good they are doing and showing the value of their work, no matter how small, the child will develop a sense of pride that drives them further every time.
  • Value even the small tasks they do and verbally praise them.
  • Build self-motivation. Make sure your child understands that every good thing they do is for themselves, not for the parent
  • Build a support system. always stand behind your child, whether they win or fail. Make them feel appreciated no matter the outcome.
  • Do not limit your child to their achievements. Remember that your child is growing. Whether it’s potty training or a bad grade, they are more than the tasks they cross off a day.

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