You want your child to do well in her exams and, in a rash moment, you promised her a trip to Disneyland if she achieved that academic target.
But now, you are having second thoughts about this.
On the one hand, you know your eight-year-old responds to positive reinforcement because she likes you to notice her achievements. She wants you to be pleased with her school performance and she needs to feel that you value her.
So, you are confident that she will study harder for her school test if you dangle the carrot of a special holiday.
On the other hand, you are worried that the promise of the Disneyland trip may simply be bribery.
After all, now that you have thought more deeply about it, you realise that your child really shouldn’t have to be “paid” in order to achieve good marks.
You do lots for her without the expectation of a reward or payment, and there is no reason why she should have to be given a “bribe” in order to study.
Bear in mind, though, that everybody likes their efforts to be recognised, and an occasional treat for good behaviour won’t do her any harm.
As long as the rewards are sporadic, your young one won’t expect to receive one every time she gets good grades.
Also, there is a difference between promising your kid a trip to Disneyland before the year-end exams in order to persuade her to try her best, and giving her a reward after the papers are over because she gained good grades.
Therefore, the timing of the incentive or rewards is important. Finally, the term “bribe” suggests a sinister underlying purpose to the action, when all you want to do is to encourage your kid to excel.
Rewards and incentives can play an important part if they are used sensitively and judiciously. When using them, consider the following:
Whatever reward you use, your child needs to understand the connection with the desired behaviour. Timing is crucial.
That’s why you may find that making a promise of a post-exam Disney trip two months before the actual exam, for example, has no effect because the reward is too far away.
Likewise, if she earns the promised reward by achieving good marks, the trip should be arranged very quickly.
Incentives should be appropriate
Make the reward reasonably proportionate to the behaviour, otherwise, she will become confused.
For instance, there is no point in buying her a new bicycle because she remembered to bring her wattle bottle for once.
The reward wouldn’t make sense to her and she wouldn’t understand why you have it.
Remember that small rewards can be just as effective as large ones.
Use a variety of rewards
The promise of a trip to Disneyland might work this year, but she may shrug her shoulder with indifference if you offer it again the following year.
Variation keeps her motivation high. Do your best to match incentives to her specific interests.
Use physical incentives sparingly
If you promise an extravagant treat every time she sits for an exam, you’ll soon find the positive effect wears off.
And she may even start to dig her heels in by insisting that she gets a holiday as a prize, or else she won’t bother studying at all!
It is far better to have times when she is expected to achieve without any promise of a reward. That way, she’ll savour the reward even more the next time.
Related: 10 ways to praise your kids(Photo: 123RF.com)