Monday, August 07, 2006

Are your kids reward dependent?

School's coming back and with it my home will accumulate a-hundred-and-one small junk toys ordered through the Oriental Trading Company, more of the same kindI just got rid of during this summer's garage sale. They're passed out at schools as prizes for every good behavior. At my children's elementary school, they get prizes for behaving in the lunch room, for staying straight in line, for being the best class in P.E., for good grades, if they wear an orange shirt on Wednesday... I can keep naming them forever.

Thankfully, I've been able to counter that public school culture at home. Hubby and I debated a long time what our parenting philosophy was going to be. Were we going to pay for chores done? Should they have a set allowance? What will their responsibilities be? How much control will I exert over their allowance spending once I "give it to them"?

My favorite parenting book, Kids are Worth It!, by Barbara Coloroso has this list to help clue you into if you're raising a reward dependent child:

The following is a checklist of warning signs that your child might be reward-dependent. Most children will exhibit some of these signs as they struggle to develop their own sense of self. It is the frequency, intensity, and persistence of these behaviors that would indicate a need for concern and intervention.

1. "Does to please" to win approval of those in authority.
2. Does what is told without questioning.
3. Lacks initiative, waits for orders.
4. Sense of self is defined externally; has dignity and worth when producing what adults want.
5. Who she is and what she does are one and the same. If she does something "bad," she sees herself as "bad."
6. Uses his history as an excuse for his behavior.
7. Is pessimistic, despairs easily.
8. Places blame outside self: "He made me do it." "It's not my fault."
9. Hides mistakes, feaful of adult's wrath.
10. Lies to avoid consequences and cover mistakes.
11. Feels controlled.
12. Feels worthwhile only when on top, when number one.
13. Is competative, gets ahead at the expense of others.
14. Needs to be perfect, views mistakes as bad.
15. Seeks approval and fears disapproval, fearful of rejection.
16. Is conformist. Goes along with the crowd.
17. Considers behavior by its consequences. "If I don't get caught, what is wrong with it."
18. Focuses on the past and the future, misses the moment. Worries about "What if..."
19. Experiences self-talk that is negative; parental injunctions keep playing over and over.
20. Has private reservations about public self; "If they really knew me..."
21. Uses only simple problem-solving skills to try to solve all problems.
22. Is always concerned about the "bottom line."
23. Says what she thinks other want to hear.
24. Is cautious, insecure.
25. Has a mercenary spirit; is selfish, self-centered, greedy, does good deeds to obtain rewards or avoid punishment.
26. Is cynical and skeptical; views world in terms of "us" and "them."
27. Swallows values without question from those in authority.
28. Frames deeds with "should."
29. Holds on to resentments.
30. Is oversensitive to criticism, diqualifies compliments.

"Rewards and punishment are the lowest form of education" - Chuang-Tzu

I would think the easiest problem to spot would be #9. This makes #8 & #10 side-effects of the #9 problem. If your kid is scared of you and in tears because he dropped his dinner plate, then you've got a real problem. If everytime an accident happens, your kid cries and lies, you haven't taught him how to deal with the problem. And when I say, "how to deal with it", I mean, to fix the problem rather than sobbing hysterically. For example, if the kids drops his dinner plate, he should think about cleaning it up. He'll probably still need your help cleaning it up but at least he's taken control of his mistake, his problem, and made it right. That's what you have to do in the real world too.

I think the worst side effects are the last four. If you're a kid whose looking for an authority to praise you, you can easily be sucked into a gang. You listen to your gangs values ("the gang family comes first"), you follow the gang's ideals ("He should be beaten for that look he gave me"), you never forgive any little thing, and instantly hate any teacher who gives you a criticism.

And oddly enough, I took a parenting class with that book at the very same school I was complaining about! Well, to be honest, they were quite a bit better about handing out prizes this year than last year.

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