Finally, a sensible article about rewards for children

4 Sep

I think one of the most frustrating thing you experience when you have knowledge of a field, is how some misconception will gain wide currency because of the work of some popular writer. I think of the example of Steven J. Gould, undoubtedly an important paleontologist and a talented writer, who popularized the notion of punctuated equilibrium, even though most evolutionary biologists I know either reject it or think it is a relatively minor phenomenon. 

In my own fields of developmental and educational psychology, I have been chagrined by the continuing popularity of Alfie Kohn’s book Punished by Rewards. I believe that this book, which substantially misrepresents what we know about the effects of reinforcement on behavior, has done substantial harm.

Thus, I was pleased to see this piece in Slate by  Melinda Wenner Moyer, tiled “Go Ahead, Heap Rewards on Your Kid:”

But is the research really this damning? When an extreme stance is presented on a rather broad topic, I start wondering. And what I’ve found after digging into the research is that these blanket condemnations are unwarranted. Rewards can be useful in some situations and inappropriate in others, much like every other parenting tool. The literature on the potential dangers of rewards has been misinterpreted while the findings on its benefits have been largely overlooked.


One Response to “Finally, a sensible article about rewards for children”

  1. Kathy H September 4, 2017 at 9:42 am #

    Liked the article and very much believe in rewarding behavior in a positive way. It seems obvious to me that once the behavior becomes a habit the reward is unnecessary.

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