Thursday, April 29, 2010

To Live and Die (Not Literally) By the Sticker

This evening my daughter, who is four, was playing teacher.  She handed me a tiny sticker from her sticker collection.  "Here you go, sweetie," she said to me.  "This is for good behavior."  I took it from my "teacher's" fingertip and put it on the back of my hand, as most children do.  At first I thought it was adorable but then, call it a full moon or something in the water it broke my heart a little.  Both of my children, and indeed many of the children I work with, live and die, metaphorically speaking, by the sticker.  These children are fundamentally GOOD children.  Developmentally well-behaved, sweet, and likable.  Really, most children are or strive to be, would you agree?  Yet they fall all over themselves to get a sticker, a marble, or some other small token of good behavior-ness.  All this good behavior...for a sticker?  The Montessori philosophy does not believe in external rewards - all "rewards" should come from inside oneself and while this may be harder for kids to "get", I think it is achievable.  Certainly a child who feels good inside knows that their actions are worth more than a sticker?  Can a person be anti-sticker?  What do you think?  I welcome your musings.

4 comments:

Mary Beth said...

A long time ago I read a book called "punished by rewards" by Alfie Kohn. His whole thesis is that rewarding children for activities that are intrinsically fun sucks the pleasure right out of it. I heartily agree. One thing I hate is the library summer reading programs where the kids log the books they read and win certificates and prizes. Yuck!

ames said...

By some strange alignment in the universe, I had just read this post immediately before yours (and the post it links to). Lots of opinions on external rewards, not many of them positive. But as a game designer (Jesse Schell is my former professor) I can see a lot of potential for value in them, I think a lot of it has to do with context and the "real" motivation behind giving out the rewards (making you a better person vs. selling something?).

Elisabeth said...

My kids boycotted the summer reading program with the reward of getting a scoop of Baskin Robbins ice cream -- reading 5 books and filling out a response page for each book by the start of school in September. I used to try to get them to do until finally the olde said "Why bother? We have ice cream in the freezer". So true.

Jessica Monte said...

Oh my goodness, I agree with you so much, and yet, argh, we once had a sticker chart for our 3 year old. She became so obsessed with stickers (prior to the chart) and we were going through some rough patches with her behavior, so I introduced a sticker chart as part of a behavior plan. I am familiar with the Montessori approach and have read many, many parenting books. What I am arriving at is that take what works when it works and then discard when the time is right.

We no longer have a sticker chart, btw, and I go back and forth about how to encourage her love and passion for learning without extrinsic motivation.