I can hear many parents (and kids) out there growling at me right now. But bear with me.
When I say I don’t reward for expected behavior, I am NOT implying I don’t ever incentivize or reward my children.
I am not above mentioning the potential (begging) for a milkshake if they can get through the next hour without my having to explain on a conference call that I’m working with the kids in the background. I am certainly not above treating us all to donuts for breakfast because it’s the first day of spring break/summer/Tuesday – you get the idea.
However, it’s important to me that my kids to understand that life doesn’t consist of doing a task and getting a treat. Sometimes you do things because they’re kind or thoughtful – or darn it – they just need to be done. No one has ever given me a cookie for mopping the kitchen floor or taking out the trash. My reward is a nonsticky floor and not overflowing trash can. So……
I don’t reward for grades/similar.
I know this ruffles feathers for some. But I don’t. I have one kid who is a straight-A student, all the time. She does not receive money or treats or, well, anything for grades. It’s expected that school is her job and she’ll do her best. They do an honor roll breakfast at school, and that’s a gracious plenty. I also love that at their school, it’s not a parent-filled celebration. It’s a yummy breakfast for 30 minutes, and then off to class!
Do we grab a treat after she rockstars out her speech on living history day? Sure! She did something she was apprehensive about, and did it with gusto. THAT I’ll reward. But going to school every day and doing ‘her job’? Nope. Do your best. It’s expected.
My son doesn’t perform as well – he doesn’t get rewarded or punished, so long as I know he’s trying his best. He may never be the A-student that she is, but he does have to work his hardest and to the best of his ability. He gets the same attaboys for breaking through something that was a struggle as she does.
I don’t reward for good manners or good behavior.
Again, It’s expected. I’m not giving you a treat because you were on green all week or came home one day on blue (or whatever the heck color is better this school year.) As far as I’m concerned, that’s basically treating you for not being a pain in the teacher’s ass.
You don’t get a prize for holding the door for a stranger. A pat on the back and “That was kind – thank you for being kind to others!” You bet. Treats? Nope.
Now – when a kid finds themselves in a truly adult situation (like a funeral) and pulls out all the stops? Again, that might be cause for a slushie or pack of gum – a “your amazing self-control made a hard situation easier, and I’m grateful” reward.
I didn’t reward for potty training.
You heard me. No treats for potty usage. Both of mine potty trained over a weekend. I didn’t give them a choice. They were each old enough to understand what was happening in the big toilet and that if they didn’t make it to the potty, wetness was happening.
Was it 1,000% fun for me? Nope – but having a kid who was potty trained when they went back to daycare on Monday – oooooooh yeah. I was happy, the daycare workers were happy. It was all win. (Pull ups at night/naptimes as needed are a different story, and I’ll advocate for all day long. I am also aware that this doesn’t work for everyone so don’t start chucking stones here.)
I don’t reward or pay for chores.
The kids empty/fill the dishwasher some days. You ate on the dishes. They put away their clean clothes. You wore the clothes. I washed them. You can put them away. How I feel about giving kids responsibility is a whole other post that we will certainly cover soon. You live in this house, and to a degree that is appropriate for your age, you can contribute to the running of it.
The baseline here is that I don’t reward for things humans are generally expected to do.
Do I thank them for being considerate and kind? Oh boy, I do. Do I help and give guidance while they’re doing their chores? Yup. Can I check and assist with homework? Of course! This doesn’t mean we’re all drill sergeant in my house – it just means that I’m trying to teach them, that when we all do our part, we all get to enjoy our time.
So if you’re hankering for getting out of the reward cycle, give it a try. I am the first to say that everyone has to do what works best for them – this is what works for me – right now. Ask me next month, I might be the queen of rewards. 😉