Why Rewards Don’t Always Work
Most parents want their children to be generous and
caring toward others. To foster this behavior, it can be tempting
to reward them with excessive praise or special treats. The
difficulty is that children may continue these good deeds only as
long as the expectation of some external "prize" exists and may
stop the behavior when no such incentive is offered. They miss the
opportunity to experience the good feelings that come innately from
being kind; it is this intrinsic motivation that defines a true
generosity of spirit.
Below are some specific things you can do to inspire your
children to be kind from the "inside out":
• Modeling is one of the
most powerful ways parents can influence their children. Do your
behaviors and attitudes reflect the same approach to others that
you want your children to exhibit? Let your children know when
yousend a get-well card to a cousin or contribute to a food
about your feelings when you lend a helping hand to
someone: "I'm so glad that we could watch Jordan so her
mommy could go to the doctor. You could tell by her big 'thank you'
how much she appreciated it."
them assist you when you take the mail to a neighbor who
is ill or prepare a meal for a friend who has a new baby. Make
giving to others something you do together.
• When you
see your children being generous, point it out and praise
them. Put into words the positive feelings they may have
as they aid others. For example, you might say to your child who
helps his sister find a misplaced toy, "That was really kind of you
to stop playing your game to look for your sister's toy. You can
feel proud of yourself for being so thoughtful."
opportunities for your children to give to others. Focus
on the good feelings that accompany giving, even if the child only
offers one item. Rather than sharing things that are
nearanddear to them, help them to select toys that are less
precious. "When Sean comes over, you can put Teddy away. Let's find
toys that you want to share."
that when you say kind things to your children, you are
modeling how to express a generosity of spirit. By filling their
self-esteem and "good feelings bank," they have more to give to
others. "The way you greet me with such a big smile makes me feel
so happy inside."
We can encourage and build upon children's innate desires to do
the right thing by recognizing kind behavior. Rather than having a
goal of receiving a "gold star," your children can learn that the
good feelings that come from giving are the best reward of all. You
can shift their perspective from a more self-centered attitude of
"what's in it for me?" to a sincere and altruistic approach to