Saturday, July 18, 2009

Reward or Payment?

Just recently, I read a group of articles put out by one parenting site in which parents (self proclaimed experts really) posted their views on giving children rewards. The articles were contradicatory towards one another, and that was sort of the point. In terms of the article's strength, and the comment response, the article opposed to using rewards was the definite winner in the debate (if that is what it was.)

Now, I am going to share my views, and they just might surprise you. Yes, I am an unschooler. I believe that my children can and should do those things that they choose to do, using their own brains to reason out what is best for them, with me providing helpful, well thoughtout input and giving them access to lots of other input so that their decisions will be well informed. In general, I agree that children should not be given rewards for their behavior. I want my kids to figure out what they want to do and what is best for them, not do things 'cause I might give them something. So far no surprises right?

There is another side though. Our society works on a system where people get paid for doing work. I believe that seeing first hand how this works is the best way to learn about the system. In our house, this is where "rewards" come in, but I prefer to not call them rewards but rather payments. If I would like something done around the house, I may offer my child the job in exchange for a payment. (In our house, the common currency is paper tickets like the kind you get at the carnival which can be exchanged for various things and activities as they come available.)

Now there are a few things that keep this system under control. First of all, I don't offer the kids payments for things that most people do for themselves without payment like picking up after themselves. Second, I still ask my kids if they are available to help me with various things like switching laundry or making dinner without offering payment. Third, all my kids help in various ways getting the house in order after dinner just as part of the family without expecting payment too. No one is required to do this, they just want to be a part of taking care of the house and family. In other words, my kids are normal, helpful family members who do not expect payment for normal life activities.

Also, I do not ever require the kids to do anything for payment. This would defeat the purpose. In the real world, you can choose whether to take a job or not. I realize that some people may feel forced into a situation, but there is always a choice on some level. I want my kids to know this! Of course, if one kid says no, the job is often offered to another who will then get the payment.

This method has worked well in our family for a couple of years now. It is the best of both worlds. Of course as unschoolers, we are not offering our kids rewards for things like A's or school work or reading books! Also, if we had more financial resources, I would prefer to give my kids cash payments instead of tickets, but they understand that.

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