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To Reward or Not To Reward

I never tell my daughters “Good job!” or “You’re so smart!”

Am I a bad parent?

Instead of giving bland, meaningless praise, I prefer to say things like “That really looks like an elephant!” or “You’ve learned the alphabet!” so that we can celebrate their successes together. They learn to take satisfaction in what they do for its own sake rather than as a means to earn my praise. Being labeled smart as a child wasn’t an unqualified good in my life. It would have done me more good to learn to enjoy the fruits of achievement.

The New York Times has an interesting article about the current debate about whether rewarding children helps modify behavior in the long run. Rewards often work in the short term, but children seem to revert (or digress) once rewards are no longer forthcoming.

You can tell what I believe about rewards. We’ll see what the science has to say.

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