“Reward System” For Young Children???

I was asked by a mom how I think about “reward system” for young children,  so I share my thought here.

First, what’s the “reward system”???

Often times, people use a star chart or sticker chart, and if the child followed a promise (an action or behavior), they get a “star” and if they get 10 stars, they can get a toy or some reward. Well, it might be 5 stars, 7 stars, whatever.

For example, the promise could be “clean up your toys!” or something to encourage some behaviours or discourage some actions.

People use star, sticker, money, toy, candy, etc as a reward.

I think, in our generation, we all experienced something similar system.  Especially, at school age.

I remember the toy my mom gave me as a reward.  But, I don’t remember for what’s action I was rewarded…

Well.  My experience is one example.  When you use the reward system, children’s motivation/thought for their action/behavior move outside of the children. This is the point.

“I want the toy, so I do (don’t do) this.”

This system is formed by illogical consequence.  This is the same structure that I talk about child discipline.  I always say, “not illogical consequence, but use logical/natural consequence.”

Here are some examples of illogical/logical consequences.

“You hit your sister, so no dessert for today.”

(Illogical consequence. Hitting and dessert have nothing to make sense in their relationship.)

With illogical consequence, I’m sure that, next time, this boy will not hit his sister because he doesn’t want to miss his dessert.

“You didn’t eat your lunch, so there is no dessert.” (Logical consequence. He doesn’t eat any more, then, there is no more food.)

With logical consequence, children focus on their action, “what did I do???”  So, their motivation/thought can stay inside of children. Another way to say is that we can provide an opportunity for children to face their actions. On the other hand, illogical consequence leads children’s thinking out of their actions, “How could I avoid this penalty?” or “How can I earn more reward?”  Their focus is on the dessert or toy, instead of their actions.

Reward system is a very strong tool because human beings are all greedy.  Children love reward, so as adults.

Here, I want everybody to think about it. Is it really you want for your child to do???

This is a little bit off topic, but in Hong Kong, I see this following scene so many times.  A child hit somebody, and aunty or parent, they keep yelling to the child,

“Say sorry! Say sorry!!!”

When the child said “sorry,” they say, “Oh, good boy!”


This scene and reward system run with the same mindset.  People see only the outside of children.

This teaching theory is called “Behaviorism.”  Teachers, papents, caregivers, what they see is children’s outside, behavior.

Just looking at outside of children, yes, they seem right.  A child did something wrong and he said sorry.

Then, what’s wrong???

So wrong!!!

This aunty/mommy just taught this boy,

“It’s ok to hit if you say sorry!”

Next time, he will hit again, and automatically he will say, “Sorry.”

What’s going on inside of him???

I want you to be aware that, did he really feel sorry?  I see this boy’s eyes.

I highly doubt it.

The same as reward system.  Did he behave because he really feel so?  Did he clean up his toys because they are his precious things?  Or, is he just doing it for his reward???

The behaviorism is a teaching theory that about 100 years ago, Watson and Skinner said this is the way to teach children.  Nowadays, not much educators support it because it has a huge failure about children’s mind/heart development.

So, when children grew up with this theory, often times they become mindless adults.

A grown up without heart.

Japan did it, US did it, I’m sure UK did it too. Whole world wide, we used this teaching theory. Thus, when we were young, we experienced it. Then, why did they use this teaching theory???

The time was after the Industrial Revolution, and the Behaviorism theory really fit in the society. Factory workers, office workers, farm workers, etc, the most of the working places, we didn’t want people to have their own mind.  We needed more robot-like people who just follow the order and enjoy the reward. Who did perform the best?  No complaining, no argument, no consideration, no compassion, just simply check the “star chart” and count the “reward stars.”  It’s easy to handle, and it’s very effective.

Still, many schools use this teaching theory. Not only Hong Kong, but also many countries.   It’s familiar to the parents, who experienced this teaching. So, they can feel easy, they can accept it.  They may say, “Yes! This is the education!  I did too♪”   Also, for the teachers and schools, it’s easy, cheap, and fast.  You can even apply the behavoirism to the dog training.  Or, I should say that the basic dog training is the behaviorism.   It’s effective. Human brain is much bigger than dogs. So, it really works for our children.

But, we leave children’s mind.

Their heart.

If, you turn on the TV, you can see the result of this education.  There are a lot of grown ups who grew up with this theory.  Now, they are the ones who are leading this world. Put children into the cage???  Who orders it??? Who is following his order???   They didn’t wonder anything???


People without heart.

(Even his wife said that’s not good…)

Moreover, the world is changing rapidly. This changing speed and this coming society is something we never experienced before.

Corporations are growing bigger and bigger.  This monster, literally, has only one purpose to exist: making PROFIT.  Imagine, if the people inside the corporations are mindless?  What’s happening to our environment and our society???

Real robots are coming soon.  Then, what do you do with people trained like a robot???  Robots can work 24/7 without any complain, any rest, any mistake.  Can we do that???

Quantum computer will be released soon.  A.I. will be there.  They don’t have mind nor heart.  If human beings don’t have mind and heart, what will happen???

A military’s killing machine with A.I.???  It’s no longer SF story. It’s there now.

In the front line of the education field, we are all talking about this issue.

“Not transforming education system. But, we completely need to change it.”

Behaviorism is 20th century’s education.

We need the 21st century’s education.

We don’t need “stars” any more.

We need children’s mind and heart.

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