Rewarding kids can backfire and send the wrong message. What have we done?

IMG_1314.JPGMy 8 yr. old daughter came home from school one day, very excited. “Mom! Mom! I need to bring canned food to school! ”  I asked her what the canned food was for. She told me that it was going to people who did not have food and were poor. Her enthusiasm was exciting and gave me a sense of pride in that my child cared so much for these unseen people in need.

A few weeks later my daughter approached me again with the same request except this time she wanted Two cans of food instead on just one. Again, I was pleased to see this newfound compassion for others. It was a true blessing.

Fast forward to the end of the school year. ” Mom! I am going to give $20.00 of my Own money to the children we are sponsoring in Africa.” This was a school ministry the class took on. The children were raising money and donating every so often for two children in Africa. I was shocked that she wanted to not only give $20.00, but   use her own money. Wow… I thought, her school is setting forth so many wonderful values and really teaching the kids what it is to give to others who are need. Again, I felt a sense of pride as well as completely blessed that my child was so giving, Until.. she told me this. “Mom, for every can I give, my teacher gives me a Coin. For every dollar I give to the children in Africa, my teacher gives me a coin. Mom! I get 20 coins for $20.00! You know what that means? That means I can get a nice prize at the end of the year with all these coins from the prize box!”

My heart sunk. I felt sick to my stomach. A very personal spiritual dream I had had many years ago flooded into my head. In the dream I had asked, ” How much should I ask for?” Now, I can’t remember why I asked that question but I assume it was a job related thing. The answer was, “You do not ask for anything, you do it because it is the right thing to do.”  This was the message I received.

You do it because it is the right thing to do. What’s the reward? It’s the right thing to do. How much should I get back? Nothing except knowing that you may have just saved a life with that money or food.

What are we teaching our kids? What are schools and or teachers with these reward systems teaching our children? If we give, we get.. we get recognized, we get an award, we get  a pizza party we get stuff.

My daughter recently attended a vacation Bible school. Every day the kids donated items to the food bank. One day it was PB&J, the next day it was pasta and sauce. There was so much food donated! It was a complete blessing. The Bible school was divided up into class grades and each was designated a color for their grade/team. At the end of the day, the donated items were collected and counted and based on what grade/team donated the most, the organizers proclaimed that team the winner. There was also a 2nd, 3rd, 4th and so on.

Again, my daughter wanted to win. The difference between this so called contest and her school was that there was No prize or coin given out. The kids were equally as estatic about winning with No prize in sight.

I decided to have a chat with my daughter. As we were in the store purchasing 4 boxes of pasta and 4 jars of sauce, which were not cheap by the way. I paused. I said; ” See this One box of pasta and this One jar of sauce? This will feed an entire family and most likely there will be left overs. This will feed an entire family that cannot afford food. With all of the pasta and sauce we just bought, you are feeding Four families!” My daughter was silent as she processed the information. She then asked, ” You mean like a family like our friends the Melina’s or like our friends the… ”

Yes, I responded, except those friends do not need help but other people do. Your food could very well save someone’s life. You are feeding a family and very well saving a life. Winning is fun but saving a life and blessing a family is much more important.”

This store conversation was special. I will never forget it.

After Bible school, my daughter skipped up to me and proclaimed they had won third place. She then said, ” Its ok mom, I fed Four families!”

Yes you did! This gave me that sense of pride in her but more importantly knowing that she was beginning to understand the impact she could make on a persons life. That getting for giving wasn’t what really mattered. That God saw her good works and would bless her accordingly. These are the real rewards.

My solution to the school reward system in this ” giving situation” would be a reward, yes. The reward for the most cans or money would be praise. It may be that the class who won, gets a personal speech of praise from the principal and maybe even a video or slideshow with how they impacted the community or people they helped. A special prayer or praise so that those kids come away with a better understanding and feeling that they made a difference. The rest of the school should also be commended as those individual kids did the same thing. Even though a particular class did not win, it doesn’t mean they were not instrumental in the cause. They should receive praise as well and even the slideshow, but maybe the “winners” get to see it first.  This is my solution. There should be no motivation to win something when you are giving to a charity. It’s just wrong in my eyes.

I failed my son with sticker charts and reward systems for behavior. He would always ask what he would get for it or I would hear comments like “I worked so hard, I feel I deserve..”

You worked so hard, now you reap the benefits of your hard work. We need to change the mindset. I’m trying to do this now but we need to get the rest of society on board. It starts with the young.

In regard to giving back to the less fortunate, I feel this reward system has failed our children. Their sights are set on what they get in the end, not what these struggling individuals receive.

We have a goal as the adult organizer. The way we meet these goals are to motivate these children by rewards. We are meeting our goals, but at the expense of our children. Food for thought.

” What shall I get back?”

Nothing but blessings. You do it  because it’s the right thing to do.”

Why? Because God and the mama said so.

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One thought on “Rewarding kids can backfire and send the wrong message. What have we done?

  1. Pingback: Rewarding kids can backfire and send the wrong message. What have we done? | becausethemamasaidso's Blog

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