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One Response to Rewards: The Other Edge of the Sword

  1. Amy Phoenix  

    Thank you for this, Mandy. When I first heard about the effects of rewards and punishments I could feel how such measures played out in my own life growing up (and into adulthood – I’m still working out the kinks).

    I appreciate these notes…

    “Behavioral training does have its place. Used short term, it has helped many people change habits. Used as an extrinsic tool to aid an intrinsic desire, behavioral conditioning has its benefits. ”

    I think this speaks to the person’s own desire, as in if someone is working to meet a goal. Certainly if a family is working towards goals together a special reward for consistent effort isn’t actually a punishment in disguise. It’s more of a celebration. I’ve veered away from such because I don’t want to use extrinsic motivation, but in a world where there are extrinsic motivators I would rather our family have the opportunity to use them wisely than not at all. Just something I’ve been pondering lately. Total restriction of rewards may not be so helpful.

    Also, we have one child who really needs some dental work done and I’ve been thinking about how to utilize rewards as part of our plan. Most of the plan is allowing her the choice right now and doing some therapy and meditation to work through anxiety from previous dental experiences. I don’t want to throw out the potential benefits of rewards, though, simply because they can be overused. If she seems to find rewards beneficial in this situation I am okay with her choice.

    I also appreciate this, which I think communicates the gist of your whole post…

    “Reputable behaviorists do not recommend punishments or rewards as the basis for a parenting system.”

    I agree completely. Punishments don’t help a person learn about themselves, only what another will do to them if they don’t meet expectations. Similarly, rewards can lead to someone expecting such all of the time and external rewards may or may not always be available when we succeed. We need to be able to feel good about our accomplishments even when no reward is given. We can internally reward ourselves. 🙂

    Thanks again for this insightful post.