parents, we've been told that punishments are ineffective as
teaching tools. But what about reinforcers? Psychological research
also tells us to be very careful in how we use reinforcers.
They can damage the intrinsic motivation of our children.
are all reinforcers bad? Can some be used more safely than others?
It sounds like great theory that all children should be intrinsically
motivated to do good, obey their elders, and respect parents
and teachers. But the reality is that sometimes children need
a little help to move in the right direction. Many of us choose
to use reinforcers for help. Used sparingly and carefully, reinforcers
can be a great aid to parents and teachers alike. However, money
should probably never be used as a reinforcer, particularly
by parents. Money may not actually even be a reinforcer. And
if it is, it is a very complicated one.
funny that money may not be a reinforcer? At first glance most
of us would say of course money is a motivator and a reinforcer.
Why, just look at the adult world. Most of us work for money.
If they quit paying you for what you do, how many of you would
continue to work? Certainly at the school where I teach, I dare
say few teachers would remain if the salaries were removed.
So at first glance, it appears we are motivated by money. But
we need to look further.
we truly working for the money or does the money allow us to
work? Most of us enjoy our work. I very much enjoy teaching.
I teach for the love of it. If I was paid more, I wouldn't teach
any harder. The fact is I teach as best I can now, regardless
of the money. So why is it that I would not continue to teach
if the money were removed? Not because the money was gone, but
because I would now need to go find something else to do to
replace the missing money. Money is required for me to live.
I need to eat, feed and clothe my children and put a reasonable
roof over our heads. That's the bottom line. So by providing
that (in the form of a paycheck) I can continue to do what I
enjoy doing and that is to teach. Therefore I teach because
I enjoy it. The suggestion that I'd teach better if I was paid
more is insulting. I am the very best teacher I can be because
I love teaching and care for children and their future. I appreciate
the fact that a salary is provided so that I can take care of
the needs of my family which allows me to continue to teach.
of us would be insulted by being paid for something we do for
the sheer joy of it or love for another. If I spent the day
preparing a delightful candlelight dinner for two for my husband
and myself, I do that out of the love I have for him. He would
degrade that act, if at the end of the dinner, he thanked my
with a 20 dollar tip.
a big snow storm, I often shovel the walkway around my house
and my neighbor's house. She has a brand new baby and I understand
the inconvenience of having to juggle that responsibility and
shovel snow. So I feel better about our close and caring neighborhood
by shoveling her walk along with my own so that she doesn't
have to. I don't expect a thank you from her. As a mother of
four, I remember the tough days of having a newborn. That's
part of belonging to a human community -doing things out of
care and love for others. What would be the effect if my neighbor
gave me cash as a thanks. How would I feel. Degraded? Insulted?
Misunderstood? All of the above.
is important. Most all of us certainly enjoy it. A lot. It buys
us necessities and luxuries. We like to feel like there is a
relationship between our efforts and labor and the lifestyle
we can afford. But money as a reinforcer is usually inappropriate.
It can even be dangerous in that it may unintentionally insult
the person we are giving it to. When acts are done out of kindness,
concern and love, the rewards are intrinsic. We enjoy the feeling
we get from doing for others. Money reduces that feeling and
often changes it from a positive feeling to a negative one.
what's a parent to do? If you have established a trend of money
for grades or money for following rules, you may want to reexamine
the act. You may try acknowledging the hard work and effort
with an in-kind act of your own, such as a trip to a favorite
restaurant. Or try a mini-vacation, just the two of you to spend
some special one-on-one time together. Maybe concert tickets
to share or surprise them by hand-washing their car or cleaning
their room for a change. Human acts of love can be thanked with
other acts of love and maintain their integrity. Even a hug,
a kiss and a kind word can enrich the relationship. Money may
say you misread the intent.
for Further Reading:
The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
by Daniel Pink.
We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation
by Edward Deci