From the moment we're born we're told how great we are. Rewarded with ice-cream for eating dinner, a lolly for walking a gold star for reading a car for graduating, bribery can be effective or call it an incentive if you prefer.
The Nepean Christian School doesn't believe in rewarding its students.
"What sort of things do you avoid?” Asked Adene
“I avoid what kids would want to have as a tangible reward so stamps, stickers and certificates, we don't give out certificates either.” Said Karen
“So no assembly certificates, did you have them as a child?” Asked Adene
“Yes I did have them as a child.” Said Karen
“Do you think it helped you?” Said Adene
“Ummmm, I don't think so." Said Karen
Karen Adams is a mother of four and a Kindy teacher at the school. "I want my kids to love reading because they can read fantastic books and they can learn from that I don't want them to be reading because they're going to get a star on their chart."
Rewards are out and the teachers aren't exactly generous with praise either.
The school believes a job well done is a reward in itself.
"The very moment we give a reward to one child it's a declaration loud and clear that we value that child more than the others." Said Karen
School principal Geoff Wheaton believes rewards encourage unhealthy competition, breed self-interest and harm development.
"The very moment you have artificial or intrinsic means of motivating kids you're going to undermine the kid’s intrinsic motivation, I think the research also shows that.”
“So dangling the carrot is not a good idea?” Asked Adene
“Not a good idea at all because the kid’s focus on the carrot rather than the task and we don't want the kid reciting to get the carrot if there's a scarcity of carrots." Said Geoff
If you run out of carrots there's always pizza believe it or not there is a food for reading program in the United States where kids can get free pizzas for reading a given number of books. The danger is when the vouchers run out the reading stops leaving one psychologist to conclude the program "would probably produce a lot of fat kids who don't like to read!!!!"
"It would be a sad world if kids never got a certificate for participating or stickers it's such a simple thing and I use them as little rewards for my kids and they get so excited over getting a sticker so I think to sort of abolish all that would be a shame."
Michaela Fox has three children under four, she says without rewards or praise her household would be chaotic.
"It’s easy, it's cheap and its effective and you know as parents it’s just great to see them trying new things. My 4 year old is quite shy and she takes a while to warm up and get involved in different things and we've sort of been trying to get her to take a step forward and get involved in more activities and she really has. So we've rewarded her with ballet classes." Said Michaela
"I think what we want to do with children is build their belief in themselves to do things and they'll only do that if we reward accomplishments or effort put into something, we won't do it just for rewarding for rewarding sake, they won't know what the hell they've done at the end of the day."
While praise is necessary psychologist Grant Brecht says parents and teachers must be careful how often it's delivered.
"Children who are overpraised can really be very unprepared for failure in the real world and it will come and then they can feel that there is something wrong with them, that they're not achieving and their effort is not making a difference and then they can start to give up on life and become demotivated and that’s very unfortunately indeed."
"It’s absolutely vital that we create situations where kids will experience disappointment and indeed shame not the sort of shame that leads to torment but the sort of shame that leads to assurance." Said Geoff