Friday 26 February 2016

Punished by rewards

Image thanks Maxxl
Alfie Kohn's 'Unconditional Parenting' was something of a Eureka moment for our parenting. While our firstborn responded well to rewards, parenting advice inherited, absorbed and internalised, just didn't work for number two. And so we came across Alfie Kohn, who in a funny kind of way confirmed a lot of what we thought, but weren't brave enough to do.

We weren't interested in turning our kids into Pavlovs' dogs. We didn't want to use rewards and punishments to control them - 'do this and you get that'. We wanted our children to learn to make informed choices for themselves. We want them to work well with others - to listen and to express their own opinion in a respectful way. We want them to feel valued. Punishments and rewards just don't do that.

Alfie Kohn's philosophy doesn't beat around the bush. What it requires is healthy portions of humble pie and at times, sometimes backing down (shock horror!). Loosing the naughty step was relatively easy, but 'logical consequences' and 'time to reflect' can be thinly veiled punishments needing to be questioned too.

Our relationship with our children changed, but although still it is tempting to head for the 'shortcut' reward, valuing our children's opinion and acting on it has paid off both in our relationship with them and in their learning to get on with anyone.

I can see for teaching a class, maybe there are more challenges to a more 'Alfie Kohn' approach, but what strikes me is his approach to motivation and how we, as educators, strive for motivated students:
'One of the central myths we carry around in our heads is that there is this single entity called “motivation” that one can have more or less of. And of course we want kids to have more of it, so we offer them A’s, praise, and pizza. The truth is that there are qualitatively different kinds of motivation. We need to stop asking “How motivated are my students?” and start asking “How are my students motivated?” The kind of motivation elicited by extrinsic inducements isn’t just less effective than intrinsic motivation; it threatens to erode that intrinsic motivation, that excitement about what one is doing.' 

Part of #29daysofwriting @staffrm

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