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EXPERT OPINION: Why you shouldn't reward kids for just turning up

Dr Justin Coulson believes rewarding kids for doing what they should do creates entitled adults.
Dr Justin Coulson believes rewarding kids for doing what they should do creates entitled adults. Contributed

ONE of Australia's leading parenting experts has weighed in on the effectiveness of rewarding children to increase their school attendance.

Yesterday North Rockhampton State High School spoke to The Morning Bulletin about a program at the school which incentives students to attend using raffles and prizes.

Dr Justin Coulson, author of Nine Ways to a Resilient Child and consultant to dozens of schools, said the method was simply a band-aid solution.

"What research tells us is that if we're looking for a quick fix to get an instant result, then punishment and reward are excellent ways to manipulate people,” Dr Coulson said.

"Once we step away from the short term and look at the long term view, we find rewards work, but we need to ask the question, work to what exactly?

"What we find is rewards motivate people to get rewards, but they won't motivate people to do the things that matter.”

While Dr Coulson said increased attendance was positive, kids may be showing up for the wrong reasons.

"We want these kids to go to school to learn, to be educated and so they can have better outcomes in their lives,” he said.

"Just because they're attending school, doesn't mean that they're learning.”

In the long term, Dr Coulson said rewarding kids for what they're supposed to do anyway can lead to issues with motivation and turn children into adults who believe they're entitled to things.

"There are a lot of things we have to do that we don't get anything for, but we just have to do them,” he said.

Dr Coulson suggested children could be motivated to attend school by teachers building positive relationships with students, bolstering student confidence and giving students more input.

"I would say we need to look at ways we can give children some sense of control over their own lives, even when they're in a system that doesn't let them do that,” he said.

North Rockhampton State High School's deputy principal Kylie Butler said her school would continue to develop their strategies to increase attendance.

"As a school we evaluate the effectiveness through our data,” Ms Butler said.

"We consult with our management team and year coordinators in relation to improvements.”

Topics:  doctor education expert parenting


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