On Rewarding Your Child
My favorite childhood memory is having ice cream with my mother after music recitals and auditions. I went to a very specialized music school back home. The music training was rigorous. At the end of the year we would have juries where we performed for an annual evaluation. We were also encouraged to start having an hour solo recitals from a very early age. The countless hours spent in preparation were paying off. After a performance I got to enjoy a wonderful time with my mother and sometimes other young musicians! We would go to a favorite place. We would enjoy ice cream and celebrate the success!
It was interesting to me to read an interview with a famous violinist not long ago. He was asked about his best childhood memory playing the violin. I think the expectation was for a profound answer. Instead he said…ice cream after concerts!
Motivating our children is very simple, yet it is not easy! It is sometimes difficult to help them develop maturity while appreciating that they are still children.
After you do something well, and you recognize it, you want to share it with others. Children experience this often. Adults do too. When acknowledging child’s achievements, the appreciation goes both ways between a parent and a child as both parties celebrate their part in the success. I think this is really the memorable moment! It was not the ice cream, it was the celebration of a job well done.
However, this could have been a very different scenario. The ice cream could have come as a condition. Then I may have wanted to do well because of the reward. Or even worse, I could have associated not getting the reward as failure and internalized it. In either case, I would be having negative feelings, or I would want more and more external motivation for the work I do.
Parents sometimes confuse rewarding their child with setting conditions for them. It is easy to do. It happens when we really want our children to do well. It also happens when we want an instant improvement of their behavior.
If you…then I will…..
If you catch yourself using this sentence structure with your child, then this post is for you!
Every time you condition a child, you would see an immediate response. But you may be setting up some dangerous ways of thinking.
Here are some scenarios. They are ways of interaction I hear in my studio. In all of these cases the child is asked to cooperate by either threatening or bribing them. Both may have immediate effect but a very negative effect on the long run. The same statements could be modified to transform a negative experience into a positive one.
- Do you remember the priviledges that we talked about? You are not going to get them if you don’t listen
- If you focus at your lesson, we will get ice cream.
- Remember we talked about being quiet? We are not going to the movies otherwise.
- I have a gift for you in the car. If you play well, I will give it to you.
Instead You Might Try
- You worked really hard today! Now we have time for other fun things. What would you like to do till the rest of the evening?
- We had a very good lesson!!!! Let’s celebrate by getting ice cream together.
- The lesson did not go very well today. We need to talk about what we will do next time (no threat or bribe, just stating what needs to be done with a firm voice)
- I just saw you being very quiet and respectful to your teacher today! Let’s go see a movie!
- We practiced hard all week and we just had a great lesson! Let’s go to the car. Hmmm…let’s look in the back seat…there might be something there.
All of the “improved” scenarios involve not so much teaching the child, but rather waiting to see good behavior and then focusing on the good by expecting more of it. This way behavior correction is achieved by positive reinforcement.
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