I am a firm believer of motivation and its benefits for raising your children the right way, but right off the bat, allow me to throw in this tidbit: we’re all different parents and we all raise our children the way we want them to grow up.
I like motivation. I like the way they can be used to drive your children to do something. Sometimes, I like to offer incentives to my children if they do something – like get good grades or do chores. However, I don’t do it as much as I want because I don’t want my children to grow up with the QUID PRO QUO mentality – I scratch your back and you scratch mine.
Rewarding your child with something, like food, can be positive but it can also be detrimental to their development and progress.
What do I mean by this?
Let’s focus on one form of incentive here: sugary foods and treats.
After all, the holidays are fast approaching and parents are inclined to bribe their children with sugary treats in exchange for doing chores. Sometimes, other people present our children with sugary treats because they like them. Grandparents, uncles, and aunts will give our children candies and other sugary treats as a gift.
Giving unhealthy food items like sugary treats is like a pattern or tradition of sorts that we as parents grew up with ourselves – our parents back then also gave us treats for doing something. The act of giving becomes instinctive in our desire to make our children happy.
What happens if parents do it right?
With the right frequency of the reward or gift-giving, and combined with the right conditions for motivation, a child can grow up as a driven individual without relying on anything in exchange to do something.
What happens if parents do it the wrong way?
Some parents can go overboard with the reward-punishment principle, so we often have some adults who are obese because they like to reward themselves with sugary or any unhealthy food every time they do something good. For example, getting praised at a job would drive this individual to get a bucket of ice cream to celebrate, or enjoying a huge cup of sugar-overdosed coffee from a popular coffee shop after working out at the gym.
Do you see where I am going with this?
Children like to associate things with certain actions or events. Receiving sugary treats can be associated with happy events and feelings. At any given moment a child feels happy, he or she immediately seeks out a reward or an event that could lead to a potential sweet reward. More importantly, the incentive of a sugary treat can be too much to resist.
So how do you, as parents, control this?
Motivation can be very tricky, especially for children. Parents need to act as if they’re willing to do or give anything as long as it makes their children do something.
There’s no actual rule, theory, or principle that would guide parents on how to go about with motivating their children, nor are their principles on how to go about with reward and punishment because every child is different and may react differently to various forms of stimuli.
For parents, the core focus of motivation is this: the reward should not be associated with the thought of completing the task, but rather the feeling of satisfaction that goes along with it. Parents should make their children value the feeling of satisfaction in knowing that they’ve done something.
For example, my son cleans up his room. Instead of giving him a candy outright, I withhold the reward just for a few seconds after I have praised him for his actions. Therefore, he will immediately associate the praise as a direct reward for his actions.
Another example, my daughter gets a good grade in a subject she finds difficult. Again, if I withhold the reward of unhealthy food and exchange it for praise, she would immediately associate praise with reward, thus bolstering her self-esteem and self-confidence in the process.
The reward and punishment principle is all about satisfaction and avoiding unpleasant experiences. A child should grow up knowing that both of them can be experienced but not at the same time. Satisfaction born out of a reward can drive your children to do something more and go beyond their realm of capabilities in order to garner praise. Avoiding unpleasant experiences allows them to make a sound judgment on the actions that they take.