Reward charts, potty training charts, chore charts, sticker charts and other ‘tools’ to help children achieve their goals are highly popular among parents.
But are they actually doing our kids more harm than good? A leading family psychologist says yes and has spoken about the unexpected dangers in rewarding our kids.
Turns Out Bribes Aren’t Best
We all struggle with our children’s behaviour. And one of the most common suggestions, especially in today’s parenting world, is to consider a reward system.
Sticker charts can be used for pretty much anything and provide children with incentive to do the task at hand. Some use it to encourage kids to brush their teeth or do their homework.
But leading family psychologist Erica Reischer believes that although sticker charts can be effective if used properly, they also encourage bad habits. She says they can also lead to ungrateful adults.
Erica and other leading experts suggest that sticker charts: “can go beyond affecting children’s motivation to influence their mindset and even affect their relationship with parents”.
“What will you give me?”
She believes the first issue with sticker charts is that children start to rely on a reward any time they do something right. This leads to a reliance in something special for normal, everyday behaviour such as helping mum clean up or sharing with their siblings.
“Children come to expect a reward for good behaviour and are hesitant to give it away for free,” Erica explains.
Another concern stems is that over time children come to expect bigger and better rewards once the original ones lose their appeal.
“Why should I help?”
But perhaps the most chilling concern over reward systems that Erica highlights is that they can erode the family unit and impact children’s relationships with parents.
If a child is being rewarded for simply helping out around the house, sharing and generally being involved in a regular family unit, then there is a chance that he will come to think of this as a job – something that pays him for doing it right.
And if he is not getting something out of it, then why would he do it?
“Studies have shown that offering children tangible rewards in exchange for caring behaviour may diminish future helpful behaviour and can erode children’s innate tendency to help others,” Erica writes.
If We Shouldn’t Rely On Rewarding, What Can We Use?
As a mum who has relied heavily on bribery to help my children learn how to use the potty, how to sleep in their own beds and how to master the fine art of sight words, I’m lost without a reward system.
I have to admit that although my kids aren’t the best behaved children in the world, they are than happy to help out around the house without being given a sticker.
After all, the quicker we clean up as a family after dinner, the sooner it’s time for dessert. And that’s a bribe that I am definitely not willing to give up!