Giving Cash Rewards To Children – The Carrot and Stick Approach in Parenting

Giving Cash Rewards To Children - The Carrot and Stick Approach in Parenting

Should parents give their children cash rewards?

In this post, we adopt a balanced view on whether parents should use incentives (cash or gifts) to motivate their children.

Giving Cash Rewards To Children - The Carrot and Stick Approach in Parenting
Firstly, why do parents use cash to reward their children?
I believe that every parent deeply loves their children and want the best for them.
From a young age, it is common to see Singaporean parents plying children with extra curriculum classes. Such actions can stem from peer pressure or the insecurity of whether one is being a good parent (coupled with the typical Singaporean ‘afraid-to-lose’ mentality, and you’ve got a triple whammy!)
Does this sound familiar?
But Joey’s son is taking tennis, swimming and golf lessons! And he’s only five!
Junior can receive little sweets or simple praises from time to time to acknowledge a job well done e.g. taking care of pets. Parents would usually prefer not to break the bank as children are already given regular allowance to spend on necessities. However, when school tests roll around and Junior prefers to play video games for hours, parents are pushed toward bigger cash rewards to encourage their children to focus on their studies and do their best academically.
Rewarding children with money: The good, the bad and the ugly
In the short-term:
With a juicy carrot dangled in exchange for achieving sterling grades, children often become highly motivated to put in extra effort to get the highest scores at their parents’ behest. However, such actions signal to a child that Daddy and Mummy could care less about their love of learning, and more about the principle of ‘end-results and conditional love’: Get A for your subjects and I will think of you as a success and reward you.
Thus, it would be wise to explain to a child the reason behind using cash rewards to motivate children for getting rewards and being clear on having the right principles and intentions behind doing so. For example:
 Giving Cash Rewards To Children - The Carrot and Stick Approach in Parenting

Mummy and Daddy will give you $100 or (most desired toy) if you do well in school, ok? We want you to do your best and we love you even if you don’t get good grades. This is only a reward for your achievements (like a medal) and is not something you should expect for everything you do.

Medium-term:

While cash rewards can be effective encouragement, parents should tread carefully after using this motivational method for some time, as children can become heavily dependent on such regular rewards to perform well, rather than becoming self-motivated to achieve targets for the sole purpose of doing so. When handled skilfully, children are able to develop a strong self-identity of becoming an innate achiever or the mindset that: “I am able to accomplish [goal] on my own, rewards given or not”.

Long-term:

Giving cash rewards for performing well can be a sustainable method for ensuring consistent performance, assuming one decides to replace tuition fees and motivational courses with direct cash rewards to one’s children to develop self-motivation. However, it might neither be the best way to inculcate strong intrinsic motivation e.g. love of learning or mastery of a subject, nor the principle of accomplishing tasks unconditionally in a child e.g. I do things only to get cash rewards. Hence, it is important to strike a balance in rewarding one’s children for positive behaviour and allowing them to nurture their own set of personal and work ethics as developing individuals.

Conclusion
Giving Cash Rewards To Children - The Carrot and Stick Approach in Parenting

While parenting methods can vary, I believe every parent wants the best for their child.

Instead of relying on cash to reward one’s children for a job well done, effective recognition can be given through different feedback loops. This includes praising, acknowledging a child’s exemplary performance and highlighting the right principles he or she reflects e.g. “Linda, you’re taking really good care of the cats at home. This shows your compassion for animals – what do you say we visit the Zoo together some day?”
Striking a balance between different reward methods is thus crucial in showing one’s love and appreciation for the achievements and actions of one’s children, while maintaining a sense of virtue in them to recognise the fruit of their achievements. Doing so builds a strong foundation for your child’s character and ethics to grow over time.

With that, what are your thoughts on spending money to reward your children? Let us know!

TNS’s note

We will be having a series of articles on how parents can incorporate financial literacy into their parenting plan as well as an extensive panel+workshop on July 27, 2017.

Click here for more information on this event: Start Savvy: How to Prepare Your Kids for a Life of Wealth

Lynn Han

Lynn Han is a balance of the two: A teacher of accounting and business, a writer with a penchant for happy endings.

A Finance graduate from SMU, she writes mostly about personal finance and dreams of a world where everyone retires happily ever after.
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