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Sunday, December 10 2023
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Reward system for appreciation: Know its limitations

reward system
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Who doesn’t like to be appreciated? All want to be treated well, and like to hear good from others. It can be through hugs, wishes or through praises. When there are people to clap or motivate to do better, obviously the result will be good. Children are not exceptional for this.

Any behaviour is likely to occur again and again when there is a reward/reinforcement. These behaviours can be favourable or unfavourable. The words, appreciations, stars, tokens or even luxury items can bring out changes in behaviours. For example, when you praise your child for helping others, the chances of occurrence of that behaviour, again and again, is high. When unfavourable behaviour such as lying is followed by punishment, it (lying) can be reduced. Here for the occurrence of good/bad behaviour, the stimulus is required. Rewards can be the stimulus for such behaviours.

What is a reward system?

Rewards are given when a child performs good or to perform well/eliminate the bad behaviour. When someone introduces rewards it can be through points, stars or tokens. Sometimes it can be through taking out to a restaurant or park or by giving costly gifts. For instance, when a child is having trouble completing the homework, the parents introduce a reward system where for every successful completion of homework there is a star given. The total accumulation of a certain number of stars can be again rewarded with something big like taking the child out or gifts.

A reward system can enforce appropriate behaviour in children. The assigned work gets done easily. When children are given some positive vibes it works smoothly. Moreover, it improves child – parent /teacher – student relationship.

However, this system has limitations which can affect the behaviour of the child.


This system allows the child to get addicted to the system. For instance, when a child performs well in an exam it expects rewards all the time. Only when there is an assurance of giving rewards, only then it might perform well.

Manipulators: Children become manipulators or would be manipulated by parents. A child can perform the task, just to impress so that he/she can get rewards.

Quality of the work can be compromised

When rewards are given, the quality of work cannot be good, as they are in a hurry to complete the task as here all that they are focused on is rewards.


There is a thin line between rewards and bribes. When children are given rewards continuously to get things done, it is similar to a bribe.

Its value is diminished

The value of the reward system slowly loses its value as it is easily available and frequently used. A child might not appreciate the value of a reward system.

The reward system has more limitations than advantages. So when you give rewards it is important to know how and when to give and how it affects adversely on the behaviour.

Image by silviarita

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Ramya E.

The author is a counselor and lifeskills trainer who has trained over 2000 students. She holds an M.Sc. in Psychology.

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