A couple of months ago, an article by journalist Melinda Wenner Moyer – whose work I normally greatly respect – started making the rounds on Facebook. Then (knowing my approach to parenting) a couple of readers emailed it to me and asked me what I thought of it.
The article was called Go Ahead: Heap Rewards On Your Kid, with the subtitle: Parents are told stickers and trinkets for good behavior will ruin their children—but the research is wildly misunderstood.
Moyer’s main point is that while a large number of sources state that rewards are detrimental to children’s development (largely to their intrinsic motivation), “the literature on the potential dangers of rewards has been misinterpreted while the findings on its benefits have been largely overlooked.”
I had already done an episode on the negative impact of rewards on children’s development. I was prepared to wholeheartedly disagree with Moyer’s article. But I came out of it sort of half-convinced that she might be right.
So I came up with a two-pronged approach to the research for this episode. Firstly, I would dig into all the research that she read (and some more besides) to fully understand the evidence she consults, with one guiding premise:
Is it possible that Moyer is right? Is it possible that rewards have some benefit for children and for families?
And secondly, I wanted to get Alfie Kohn – the author of Punished by Rewards – to address these issues in-person.
Spoiler alert: heaping rewards on your kid is great for gaining compliance. If compliance is what you want in your child.
Get a free guide called How to Stop Using Rewards To Gain Your Child’s Compliance (And what to do instead)
I also want to let you know about the new Finding Your Parenting Mojo membership group. Each month the group will tackle one topic related to parenting and child development, and we’ll help you to learn about and implement new strategies and tools to support your child’s development and make parenting easier for you.
It’ll be like having a personal guide to help you implement the ideas you hear about on the show.
To tie in to this week’s episode, I have a FREE guide called How to Stop Using Rewards To Gain Your Child’s Compliance (And what to do instead) available as a preview of the membership group content. Each month you’ll get a guide just like this, walking you through a different aspect of parenting and helping you to make the changes needed to make sure your day-to-day-parenting is in line with your goals for the kind of child you want to raise.
Because it turns out that the desire to raise an independent, thoughtful adult with strong critical reasoning skills isn’t so well aligned with rewarding a child for complying with your wishes.
Also published on Medium.