The Honest Mommy

Uncensored thoughts on parenting & more

No discipline is pleasant at the time: Thoughts on rewards June 23, 2010

My recent post about helping my almost 5yo son overcome his desire to withhold his urine has garned a fair amount of traffic and comments. I want to thank Trish and Flybaby for taking the time to share their thoughts in the comments section.

I agree with Trish that the chart was helpful for him, especially since his grasp of time is still developing. I think it’s interesting to note that a chart which keeps a track record is different from the “reward charts” that we as parents are accustomed to. With a reward chart, a sticker is emphasized as the reward (or, a sticker is used as a way to mark progress toward some type of reward, like a trip out for ice cream). If such a chart is being used with a child, s/he can easily decide at any time that s/he is no longer interested in the reward, however enticing it may be.

In contrast, a chart that’s used to keep a track record of how a child is progressing toward earning back normal, everyday privileges (in my son’s case, the privilige of being out of his room, playing with toys, and so on) isn’t really a rewards chart at all, but rather is a visual aid to help the child understand things like the passage of time. It is also a memory aid that allows the parent to point out, for example, “Yesterday, you got a sad face because you chose to wet your underwear after lunch instead of using the toilet.”

I suppose I’m in the minority because I am not a fan of rewards. It’s not that I never, ever use them, but I use them so seldom that it’s hardly worth mentioning. (Recently I used small candies to get my 20mo son over a potty training hump, and I took them out of the picture after a very short period of time.) I am truly grateful to John Rosemond for educating parents, and anyone who will listen, about the farce of rewards. I feel it has saved me a good deal of time and heartache to avoid the topic from the get-go.

I don’t claim to be an expert on the topic, but I imagine that my grandmother would have frowned on reward charts or any kind of special privileges bestowed on a child for doing what s/he should be doing anyhow (keeping pants dry, doing homework, etc.). And I think she did a pretty fabulous job of raising her five children!

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