awarding children

Reinforcement: Rewarding Vs. Bribing Your Kids

by Presenta Plaque | on Jun 16, 2014 | No Comments

For as long as parents have been parenting and children –well, being children— reward  systems have been a way to let kids know when they’re on the right track. From classrooms to living rooms, kids are reassured of their good behavior through candy, certificates or just a simple “keep up the good work”. Rewarding is seen as something that is part of the learning process for kids during their stages of development. The definition of rewarding in itself means recognizing an achievement, recognizing an achievement and motivating one can sort of become one after a long day and several arguments with a preschooler. This is where rewards and bribes all start to seem like one mess of stickers, cookies and tantrums.


What’s the big deal? The two concepts seem so alike that it can almost feel like there’s no harm in whether you give the gold star before or after the chore. When you need change and cooperation fast, the easiest thing to do may seem to just go ahead and promise some sort of reward after they’ve reached the expectation. This is where things can get sticky (for more reasons than just spilled juice boxes). Once kids begin to understand that a touch of their tantrum and a little of your desperation could result in great things for them, you’re not likely to bring them back into the light without some serious effort.


So what’s the difference?  Order is a very important thing to remember when establishing whether or not you’ve resorted to bribery. Normal reward systems usually consist of a prize, compliment or award of some sort being given after the task has been completed, but there’s more to it. Giving a child an incentive right before a task instills in them the idea that they should be rewarded for acting in a way that is to be expected. If you are promising your kids video game time or candy right in the middle of a tantrum or when one is expected, they are being programmed to think that it is acceptable for their normal behavior to fall below this when they are not being rewarded. Children should not expect to be rewarded, at least not all the time, which brings us to our next point.


Make it a surprise, not an expectation. If kids are constantly expecting a pat on the back or a lollipop with every deed done right, they’re going to experience a lot of disappointment in the real world. Over-rewarding can also turn against you when they begin to expect an award of some sort for simple tasks. They may even go out of their way to try to earn rewards. While surprise breakfasts and kind-of clean floors can be nice at first, it will soon become something they are asking of you, rather than it instilling the good habits you’d hoped. One of the greatest parts about receiving a reward for kids is the surprise element. An important part of encouraging a child is to notice their efforts when they think they’ve gone unnoticed. This is a wonderful way to keep them humbly trying to improve themselves –also it doesn’t hurt that their overexcitement is really cute.


So how do I fix it? The best thing you can do at first is explain. You’d be surprised how much kids can comprehend. You have to calmly let them know that in order for things to work out for them and you, you have to make some changes. There’s a slight possibility this won’t go over well with them, in this case it’s probably best to start making changes little by little in a way they won’t immediately notice. With luck and a lot of patience, your kid will soon be back on the normal learn, reward, repeat system.

Certificates of Attendance—A Better Way to Reward Children’s Dedication

by Presenta Plaque | on Jun 07, 2013 | No Comments

Every parent knows the symptoms (runny nose, fever, coughing, chills) that can keep a child feeling miserable for a day or two. But should you keep the child home or give him some Motrin and send him to school anyway? Many kids ask to go to school even if they’re not feeling well because they want to earn a Certificate of Attendance. In other words, in many schools, if kids attend school every day for the entire year, they are rewarded.

Award plaques provide students something tangible to proudly display at home. This is a good thing, right? Not always, especially if kids are going to school while contagious. Some argue that Certificates of Attendance encourage the spread of disease in schools, but that is not the real issue; it is the all-or-nothing mentality that surrounds attendance goals.

Avoiding all illness is impossible, and students shouldn’t feel like they lost a competition just because they caught pink eye.  Being at school every day, regardless of illness, is unrealistic and teaches children to make their health a low priority. The best solution is for schools to keep giving award certificates but scratch that all-or-nothing mindset. Kids should be awarded for generally high attendance or improved attendance. This way a child who is sick at the beginning of the school year will not be discouraged because he or she has no chance at winning the award.

So why is attendance such a big deal? Starting as early as kindergarten, attendance patterns have far-reaching consequences and can predict a student’s success. When students are absent frequently they fall behind in academics. Those students are more likely to cause problems in their communities and run into trouble with the law. Additionally, some schools set their budgets based on average daily attendance. When poor attendance becomes the norm, some schools lose the ability to fund essential classroom needs.

For these reasons, early intervention is important. Award plaques are positive tools to better ensure a bright future for children, but there needs to be exceptions for illness, family emergencies, and other unexpected events. Let’s keep high attendance a priority without alienating the kids who experience events out of their control. We can eliminate the all-or-nothing approach, and make Certificates of Attendance a meaningful prize every student wants to earn in a healthier manner.  Share this blog with your school’s administration and other parents to implement attendance awards the right way.