Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rewards for toddlers

Have you ever done something you didn't really want to do, but when you were finished with the task you were proud that you accomplished it? What makes a person motivated to do something they don't want to do? For some people it is personal satisfaction of completing something on their own because they knew it needed to be done. For some people it is because of the 'reward' that is attached the task. For example, some people volunteer because it gives them a personal satisfaction and some people volunteer because they might get extra credit hours at school.

I think finding a balance between doing something for reward and doing something for personal satisfaction is important. There are few people who go to work on a daily basis purely for the satisfaction of accomplishing something great. Having the reward of a salary is a great incentive to accomplish tasks. On the other hand, volunteering just to cause good in the world and in yourself with no other monetary or physical reward is just as important in my view.

On a toddler level: Picking up your toys because you want to take care of them and have a nice playroom to play in for your own satisfaction versus picking up your toys so that you can watch a tv show or get a sticker or whatever the reward might be. I'm trying to teach my girls that physical rewards aren't always a necessary part of life. What if the reward isn't good enough? Life starts to turn into bribes and a 'what will I get for doing that?' attitude.

That all being said, Maddie got her first reward today. They were playing puzzles in the kitchen. I went to check on them and see how things were going. I came into this scene: Maddie having finished her puzzle had picked up all the pieces, put them in the zippy bag and was putting the bag in the puzzle piece bucket. Her puzzle board was on the shelf. Izzie had thrown every single piece across the kitchen and the board was upside down on the floor.

When I came upon that scene, I started clapping and I said, "Maddie! What a big girl, you picked up all your pieces and put them up. Aren't you SO proud of yourself? Here's a sticker for being such a big girl!" I gave her a sticker on her hand. Izzie immediately stuck out her hand. I said to Izzie, "Oh, Izzie, Momma is so sad that she can't give you a sticker right now, because you threw all your pieces on the floor!" She ran like crazy to pick up all her pieces and when she finished I gave her a sticker. So in the case of Maddie, she got a reward of personal satisfaction (and a sticker after completing a task without even knowing a sticker would be given, as I've never given stickers out before.) Izzie knew a sticker reward would be given if she picked up toys. It's a balance, just like all of life.


Seren Dippity said...

When I was studying psychology - I remember reading some very interesting studies on this. Behavior modification via reward and punishment has been shown to blow up in your face if you aren't careful. Punishment can eventually lead to the child focusing only on avoiding the punishment in a "not get caught" way rather than learning to change behavior.

Remember library reading programs? (Do they still do those in school?) Kids were rewarded with pizza parties if they read a certain number of books over the summer or some such. There have been studies that show when those programs are in place kids read for the reward. But after the programs are no longer in effect the average kid read less than they had before ever participating in such a program. Once they read for pleasure, now they only read if they were rewarded (paid) for doing so.

As you say.... balance. Paying attention to the responses and why they are motivated to do something good or bad. Adjusting to compensate, etc.

Sheila said...

WOW you're brave for rewarding for picking up. It's one thing I have never done but in words adn hugs and kisses. James us to love us to make noises as toys hit the toy basket. So we did that one at bedtime for him. He was taught very young to pick up after himself, not that he always does now without being told or reminded after all he isn't 4 yet. Magdalene was just so tiny that we didn't start her as young as James, her little hands just couldn't pick up and hold most toys for long, besides she wasn't even on the move at the age James was first learning to clean up. But hs eis learning by watching James and she loves to help and be like him. She already will go pick up "x" toy when told to do so. I remembver the few toys that broke when James was very young. He never really batted an eye throwing them in the trash and waving "bye bye" to them. Now it's tears and screams of "NO!!!!!!". Just wishhe would learn that 90% of them now are happy meal type toys. Some just don't hold up to the play he and his sister but them through.
As a side note. The only time I did th erewards was for potty training. He got a sticeker for going, one for flushing, and one for wasing his hands. Thant ment that sometimes he only got one. He was a kid who learned to poop on the potty first but to keep things moving I got a little can of mini m&m's and he got 1 for a pee and 2 for a poop but he had to say something about them to get them. Funny how the candy "reward" went away faster then the sticker one.Oh and we called someone everytime for a few weeks too. You need a long list of friends and family for that one! We it's your time you can call me. Magdalene and I will cheer the girls on!