This is going to be a debatable post, I’m sure, but here we go.
Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic rewards
An intrinsic reward is something like personal achievement, that ‘good feeling’ you get when you’ve done something nice for someone, the feeling of accomplishment and pride.
An example, holding the door for someone.
An extrinsic reward is something tangible like a sticker, or a prize.
An example, giving a treat to a dog who sat on command or giving a sticker to a child who cleaned up the fastest.
I’m not completely against giving out stickers (or things) as rewards (although, I kind of am), but I am against it when it’s for behaviour that’s expected (cleaning up, doing work, helping others).
For things that are expected, like I mentioned above: cleaning up, being kind, doing your best, etc. there should be no reward, it’s what you’re supposed to be doing. I don’t get any rewards for cleaning my apartment or doing my dishes (well, aside from the fact it looks nicer and I can use forks again, but I mean, I don’t get any prizes).
On the other hand, things that are not expected (like, writing a whole story on your own during play time, staying behind to help someone clean a giant mess that you had nothing to do with, sitting with a child who’s alone) – things that nobody tells you to do, these are things that I feel should get a little something extra, but no… not a sticker.
When these things happen in the classroom, I make sure I let the other children know how amazing that act was (with the child’s permission). Sometimes, I send a note home to parents to let them know. Other times, I take the child aside and tell them how incredible they are for doing what they did when they didn’t think anyone was watching or noticed. It’s different every time. Sometimes, I say nothing.
I want them to feel good, really, really good. They need to feel it. They don’t need me to give them a sticker at this point, because you can always tell when a child really feels it. The smile on their face, the pride they feel, it shows.
It’s like their confidence shoots up 100x.
These are the moments I realllllllllly like.
When you catch kids doing something so good, it makes you want to cry.
That’s what I want them to do more of. I want them to have that feeling you get when you do something nice, when you do something awesome, when you do something you’ve been trying to do for (what feels like) ever.
That look on their face after they’ve done it – I can’t give them that, a sticker can’t give them that, only they can give themselves that.
They shouldn’t look for a reward, or someone else’s approval, or a “good girl/boy” to do great things.
*Of course, celebrate those moments when you catch them – but also notice what happens when you don’t. The reaction is the same. The feeling is the same.
You can also argue the fact that when you’re older, you get money (an extrinsic reward) for working – but think to yourselves, is it the money that makes you do a good job? or the feeling you get when you’ve done a good job?
For some people, money is the reason they go to work – and that’s because their work is not their passion.
Make work your passion and the money isn’t the reason you work (intrinsic motivation FTW!).