What do Reward Systems Really Teach? Do they Actually Work?

What do Reward Systems Really Teach? Do they Actually Work?

The Parenting Junkie uses summer reading reward systems to illustrate what reward systems teach. You may be wondering how to use reward systems, especially trying to use reward systems for homework or reward systems for toddlers, but according to Alfie Kohn author of Unconditional Parenting, punishment and rewards are two sides of the same coin. So when contemplating using sticker charts as a reward system you need to ask yourself, do reward systems work. Unfortunately, as you’ll learn in this video, reward systems don’t work, at least in truly changing the behavior. So when you are trying to encourage your child to read think of other ways besides reward systems for reading or summer reading rewards. This video will show you what to do instead of using a reward system.

1:40 – Rewards impede values
3:25 – Rewards impeded achievement
5:26 – Set goals together
7:45 – Show appreciation
8:19 – Encouragement and celebration

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► Dr. Shefali Tsabary on Education (
► Child-Led Learning (
► 10 Parenting Practices to Stop (
► Unschooling Daily Routine (

Alfie Kohn: Punished by Rewards (

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Love Of Reading In Your Children

Ways To Inspire A Love Of Reading In Your Children

If your child is showing little interest in reading, there is hope.

Sometimes moms and dads have to get sneaky, but you can still turn your child into a reader, even if he is reluctant about it.

1. The Early Bedtime trick.
One of my favorite ways to get my kids to read is something they hopefully will not figure out until they have kids of their own.

Two words “Early Bedtime”.

You might be wondering how an increase in sleep can help your child to spend more time reading.

Well, here’s the trick. Set their bedtime for 45 minutes to an hour before they need their lights out.

Here’s how our bedtime routine goes.

The kids brush teeth and use the bathroom.

Then I read them their stories.

This is all done before their official bedtime.

Then, I simply give them an option. I say “It’s time for bed, now.

Would you like lights out or would you like to stay up and read for a bit?”

Unless they are really tired, they’ll always choose to read awhile. I do not have to beg nor manipulate them into reading.

In fact, they think it’s their idea and they have grown to love their chance for a ‘late’ bedtime.

Then, I back off. I don’t try to instruct them in any way, nor help them choose books. This is their time.

They can choose whichever book they like and look at it however they like until I come in to kiss them goodnight and turn their lights out.

Of course, if they want me to stay and listen to them read, I’m more than happy to comply.

Try it. It works.

2. Summer reading incentives.
You can sign up for a summer reading program at pretty much any library in the country.

If your local library does not have a summer reading program, then create one at home, with rewards for reading books.

You can use a Monopoly (or Life) board and allow your child to move one space for each book he reads.

Or if you want to have more fun, let him roll the dice each time he reads a book and have prizes available for passing certain points.

Make sure the rewards are something very desirable.

If your child values time with you more than toys, then set a date together doing his favorite thing.

If he values a certain toy, let him earn it. Or let him earn a chance to get out of his regular chores.

Take him to his favorite restaurant. Just have fun with it and he will, too.

3. Read the book before you can see the movie.
This is a standard in our home.

We won’t go see any movie until we’ve read the book.

Whether my husband and I read the book to the kids or they read it alone, each member of the family can go see the movie after the book is read.

So, if your child is looking forward to seeing the next Chronicles of Narnia movie, the next Harry Potter movie or the next Lemony Snicket movie, they’ll have to read the book first.

That’s it.

Three easy ways to turn your child into a reader for life.


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Homework time and stress

Parents have asked us why homework takes their child 2, 3 and even 4 times longer than their peers and what they can do about it.

This article defines the 3 key issues and what parents can do about it.

Student’s key issues often include:

  • Attention is a major problem, both in class and while doing homework
  • They often have one or more vision issues – too often these student’s eyes are either: not working together; skipping words or lines when reading; or they have difficulty copying off the board
  • They become tense when doing homework and often lose it

When a student has trouble paying attention in class, they often must be re-taught the information at home.

What makes matters worse is that the students homework time which should have taken 45 minutes gets stretched to 1 and ½ hours due to re-teaching, and then to over 2 hours because they cannot stay focused.

happy school girl on math classes finding solution and solving problems

Vision issues impact their homework in several ways:

  • They have trouble copying the notes off the board correctly and you spend time trying to understand the assignment
  • They skip words or lines when reading, further complicating life
  • When they do math problems they do not often align their work correctly, they miss minus and division signs so they make careless errors

Students often get tense when doing homework and battles often follow.

What often happens is:

  • Students are too intimidated to ask questions in class and they simply get stuck
  • The student or parent gets angry and then …
  •  An argument starts which often escalates into a battle royale

What we recommend is that parents:

  • Stay clam when doing homework with your child
  • If your child gets stressed, give them a 1 or 3 minute break
  • Hydrate them before doing homework and while doing homework
  • When reading, use an index card or their finger to keep them on the right line
  •  If the attention is a significant issue, consider getting an ADHD diagnosis
  • if they have a learning disability or attention issues significantly impact their academic performance, the student could qualify for an Individualized


Education Plan and they could get accommodations for homework which might include:

  • Getting copies of notes – either provided by the teacher or by another student
  • Seating by the teacher to improve attention
  • Having the teacher check to make sure the student has written the assignment correctly
  • Having you sign that they completed the assignment and putting it in a place they can find it
  • An early warning system, where the teacher alerts you to issues early on
  • If vision is a major issue see an optometrist – even if your child has 20/20 vision.
  • homework


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The simple question, ‘Have you done your homework?’

can lead to tears, tantrums and tirades.

But homework time doesn’t have to turn your home into a battlefield.

Here’s excellent advice from family and lifestyle correspondent Ylonda Caviness.

Kid reading book, light in darkness
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