Praise and Reward

Photo by Michele Venne

There are two ways to encourage students to complete their homework, study for tests, and stay organized. One is the “stick”, and the other is the “carrot”.

The first is having privileges taken away and activities restricted until grades improve. This can create resentment and instigate power struggles between students and parents. This also sets up a revolving door of the “stick” getting more and more severe in order to achieve the same results. At some point, there might not be anything else for the student to lose, or what remains holds little interest. With this form of reward (the student gets their items or privileges back when they accomplish what the parent demands), there is no transfer of extrinsic motivation to intrinsic; no positive live-long skill developed; no goal setting encouraged.

Praise for good grades, the “carrot”, for taking time to study for a test, for keeping backpacks and folders organized, and for completing projects can facilitate a team approach. A movie night with friends, a chore-free Saturday, or a favorite meal can foster a positive relationship between student and parent. Opposite of the “stick”, the “carrot” encourages goal setting; develops positive life-long skills; transfers external motivation to internal (which develops work ethic, motivation, enthusiasm, pride in a job well done, etc.).

At half-way through the fall semester, if your student is struggling, it’s not too late to make education a priority, and life skills, like organization, a habit. Set up goals for areas where they’re struggling. Decide on a timeframe, on an appropriate outcome, and on a reward to work for. Make sure to include reflection time whether or not the goal is met.