When teaching children, our educators stay clear of extrinsic rewards to keep from training a child to complete a task only when getting something tangible in return. Instead of physical rewards, our educators believe in gifting their students with a little somethin' special: the empowering feeling of leading their peers, the pride of accomplishing a task independently, the gratifying feeling of their skillsets being needed, the validating feeling of being capable enough to contribute.
[sounds a little more powerful and consistent than picking a dollar prize from a teacher box, huh?]
There is no sense in demonizing a glitter sticker or letting your child earn a new toy- especially if that child worked hard and saved up their own money to buy it themselves. Material, extrinsic rewards can still be powerful; however, intrinsic motivations create positive behaviors in children that are longer lasting and self-sustaining- which support our mission of developing true lifelong learners to grow up into our world. At school we simply understand that children are innately interested in helping, being part of a team, and behaving appropriately.
Use this scenario for example. There are two types of beginner-readers:
1. The child who is bribed to read for homework with extra snacks before bed, another episode on an iPad, or something tangible that (let’s be honest) has been built up to be far more sparkly than words on their book's page.
2. The child who has already established a love for reading because it’s always felt good to experience the adventure in a book with their favorite reader, or understands that a message lives inside of a story and *wants* to read to decode the hidden characters that match the front cover of the book they chose.
Our goal is to build a foundation for that child to become a reader who loves to read because, intrinsically, it has always produced positive rewards for them through childhood. Similarly, we want to empower every student to be the helper who loves to sweep the floor after meals because they understand the value of keeping our space clean for all who live together. In every child we want to create the leader who enjoys taking initiative to help a friend because they understand how powerful kindness can feel to their classmates.
Children want to behave and the teachers in the classroom who connect their behaviors with intrinsic rewards are the true heroes of child development. They are building the child’s foundational drive to do the right thing for the right reason, which will support them through childhood, adulthood, and into their workforce.
What would your office environment be like if every employee worked hard every hour of every day (and even stayed late voluntarily) because the dedication to complete a task was the right thing to do? What if everyone you work with treated every customer with kindness and respect because they were taught how that felt to receive it themselves? What if everyone in your city took care of their environment because they understood the impact a clean space had for others who live in it?
The teachers at Reggio & Co. understand that adults who care create a world that is passionately cared for- it just all starts with the foundation of a child.
"There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it." -Simon Sinek, Author, Optimist, Leader
Check out this article, "Toddlers Want to Help and We Should Let Them" from Psychology Today that addresses the benefits of children being empowered to contribute: