Reward System, yay or nay?

I’ve been meaning to ask if the ‘reward system’ more specifically in monetary value or gifts to motivate and encourage young children would bring out the best in them or would it be an inclination towards the concept of receiving, which is indirectly an act of consumerism.

I fell short to understand if our ‘bribes’ to ensure our kids behave or do well in something would hurt them in the long run. Will they grow up to think that every good deed requisites a reward? Would they think that by doing well academically is effectively for their parent’s contentment as opposed to an achievement for their own benefit?

How do we stop ourselves (as parents) from the concept of buying just to make our kids happy when they do well?

I am guilty to this whole concept too but I personally thought this system worked pretty well, at least for my number 1. What’s not to reward when he has been doing well in school within the first months of moving to a new country, made new friends, immersed himself into a new culture and a new school system and knowingly he had not come from a French speaking school back in Singapore. We were initially worried if he would not be able to catch up but he did! He presented himself well for his karate competition and have been receiving many verbal compliments from his teachers.

Now to think about it, since when does verbal praises and compliments become short as a form of motivation to a child? If ‘rewarding’ works well than how do families with barely sufficient income keep their child motivated especially if s/he happens to grow up within the same school compound as their wealthier friends? Indeed, I came from an under-privileged family background where my mother single-handedly raised five children on her own. I was put in a catholic school that was within home proximity and we all had school uniforms on, which was a great way to hide our family’s social statuses. At that point, I could never distinguish from the physical outlook between poverty and wealthy but you could somehow smell some of your privileged classmates through their frequent ‘new’ things they kept bringing to school, from the latest Baby-G watch to their trendy trolley bags. I am referring to the early 90s era when these crazy new-age gadgets were still of non-existence. I can’t even imagine what it is like now to see your classmates wearing Apple watches to school while you are still struggling to put food on the table. It is crazy to think that our gap is becoming more and more prominent. Anyhow, my point is, I had never received such rewards from my parent during my younger days and to be fair, she was earning enough to feed us and put a roof over our heads, that was about all that we could afford and I thought it was enough. However, when I received an award with a sum of money from the state for progressing and doing well in my Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE), obviously that monetary value meant a lot to me but surprisingly, it did not mean as much as the letter to certify of my academic progress. So there, I am about to prove that rewards in a form of money or gifts does not precede praises and compliments to motivate a child.

Today, I asked myself how have I been keeping myself motivated at work without expecting any rewards. To think about it, if you keep on expecting, you will forever feel unhappy if you don’t receive what you expect. As a matter of fact, I had never expected rewards but instead I would expect a form of recognition for acknowledging my great performances. These recognition came to me in a form of trust that is to put me in charge of higher value projects and clienteles, letting me represent the company in regional conferences, sending me for skills workshop and trainings, and somehow a personally written testimonial did just fine to earn my loyalty for the business. These I thought were more valuable to me than receiving monetary value. It does show that my employers took their time and effort to look into my skills and capabilities to the next level than just merely getting finance to sign off on petty-cash withdrawal. How do we extract such values to our children from a young age? Bonus!

I understand that the disparity between a child growing up in lower-income families and wealthier families is not a result of what their parents can offer. However, after watching this video produced by the Ministry of Education Singapore for the 2nd time on how a teacher used the reward system to also encourage the better kids to motivate the ones who are lacking had somehow gestured a new form of receiving by and large. When I watched it the first time round, I thought using fake money to motivate these children is not only bogus but a tad too much to educate children the concept of consumption. I will leave you to make your own judgement.

This is as far as I could get in this particular topic given that I am not a teacher myself, had never studied early childhood and psychology and do not have the means to back my statements with theoretical concepts and philosophy. I am however constantly curious about my child’s well-being and how their current upbringing will affect them in their future. I am also curious to know the different methods used to motivate children especially practiced between wealthier and poorer families and how it shaped the values ingrained into their stages of growing. I have seen children from wealthier families perform below expectations and children from poorer families succeed; that is enough to prove monetary rewarding from parents is not particularly necessary to keep a child’s motivation. What are your methods?


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