Rewards and consequences have their pros and cons. When I was in the classroom with my first and second graders I tried establishing a rewards system as part of my classroom management strategy. I hated the inconvenience of having to pay attention to one more detail! One more thing to assess, document, or put money into. My brain just felt overwhelmed and I honestly wasn’t very good at being consistent with a system. It just felt a bit artificial and I didn’t really sell it well. I wondered if I was accomplishing the right thing with my students – of course I wanted immediate compliance, but were they learning to gain self-control and self-confidence or was I training them to always expect a reward? I guess I believed that external rewards hinder internal motivation and fostering internal motivation is what really creates enthusiasm for learning. Real learning that lasts, not just finishing homework or following directions during group work.
Next, we tried consequences – things like enforced potty breaks every half-hour, restricting favorite TV shows or activities that seemed to be distracting him from paying attention to the potty. This didn’t work quite so well either because he would just get mad, resist our efforts to control him, and he actually started having more accidents! I couldn’t believe it. I gave up pressing the issue for a few weeks. He has to learn on his own, right? He has to be the one to decide that he is going to learn to monitor himself and DO IT! Hence – internal motivation. We have always tried to give him a lot of verbal praise and affirmation for his efforts but in the end it comes down to the child. Some kids are much more independently willed than others.
I did find some really great ideas for rewards at Child Development Institute. They are segmented by age level and focus on activities instead of material goods. Some of these make more sense to me as far as encouraging internal motivation, or at least your personal relationship with the child.
How do they work for your classroom management?