More on Incentives and Rewards

Dear Reader,

I posted recently on the use of incentives (see here) and when I think they work and don’t work. A couple of things have made me revisit this issue since then. In the Wall Street Journal (read it here), I read a book review discussing how rewards and prizes in our society have run amok. The article points out that there is some economic reason behind this. That is, subdividing the marketplace into narrower and narrower categories gives every customer their niche and hopefully leads to more buying (from the marketer’s perspective of course).  But what about the proliferation of prizes i, for example, a high school? No longer is it just valedictorians. Now there are prizes for many different achievements so that none will feel left out. And I wonder if part of the problem is that as we use more and more incentives and rewards, we need to keep escalating the prizes. What  worked once may no longer be enough. And so the next time the payoff must be bigger. And when it comes to parenting, this is where negotiations begin. The kids come to see the reward as their right and ask for more and more.

This is what worries me about buying my kids’ good behavior in the grocery store. If a treat is promised once to assure good behavior, what will happen next time? What if we can’t afford a treat or choose not to get it for some other reason? Or what if the next need is good behavior at the doctor’s office? Will the good behavior from the store translate into another scenario or will I just have to buy my kids off again? That is the problem with incentives. The incentive becomes the goal and what should have been the goal (the good behavior) is lost. It is only a by-product and if the incentive is gone, then so is the good behavior.

The second place I ran into the idea of incentives was in Ted Tripp’s book Shepherding a Child’s Heart. In the introduction, he says that bosses have come to use incentives more and more for their workers because the workers no longer just respond to them as authority figures. This is part of a larger point he is making about how our society has lost its sense of and respect for authority. So here the use of incentives is seen as the opposite of authority. And I think this can be seen in parenting quite well. If I have authority over my children and if they recognize and respect that fact, then they will obey because I tell them to do (or not do) something. If I have to sue incentives, I do not have authority. They are obeying for the bribe, not because they recognize my authority over them. Furthermore, I think the use (or overuse) of incentives over time erodes  or undermines authority. It shifts the focus away from simple obedience and once again the goals are shifted. The outward result might appear the same, at least for a time. But true authority has been lost.

Nebby

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Sabbath Mood Homeschool

Desiring That a Sabbath Mood Rest on Your Homeschool

dayuntoday

my musings, wise or otherwise

Festival Fete

locally grown art, food, and merriment

StrongHaven

A Literary Homestead

journey-and-destination

Blogging about education, theology, and more

Harmony Fine Arts

Blogging about education, theology, and more

The Common Room

....Blogging about cabbages and kings since 2005.

Sage Parnassus

Blogging about education, theology, and more

A peaceful day

Blogging about education, theology, and more

Living Charlotte Mason in California

Blogging about education, theology, and more

weeklywalrus

Weekly Walrus Whatevers

Creations by Maris

Craft Projects For all Ages

Fisher Academy International ~ Teaching Home

Blogging about education, theology, and more

Afterthoughts

Blogging about education, theology, and more

Leah's Bookshelf

Book Reviews You Can Trust

Duxbury Art Boosters

Supporting the visual arts in Duxbury Public Schools

Just Right Porridge

... you'll lick your bowl clean...