Friday, December 10, 2010

The Importance of Instant Rewards for Young Children

This week we have learned a couple very valuable lesson: 
  • The Importance of Instant Gratification
  • The Importance of Teaching Time Management

Our daughter has recently been having a hard time focusing.  She will do her work but normally rather slowly and often allowing herself to be distracted by everything else in the room.  Comments like "I am hungry." or "I am thirsty."  and even the ever popular "I have to go to the bathroom." were coming much to frequently.  Since we use the Montessori method mostly, she is use to a freedom of choice and self-directed education.  I did not want to change this, but wanted to help her stay focused.  I had been using the encouragement of as soon as you are done with all your work you can go play.  Alas at 9, this is too far away to be much encouragement.  We (my husband and I) decided we needed to come up with something that could be done as she completed each subject.  "What?" was the question.

  Then I remembered the stickers of my youth.  How happy I was to get them on my paper!  For those of you not familiar with the Montessori Method, this is not easily translated as most of the work is more tactile than sit and do this paper.  Not to mention we do not have a grading scale, she does the work, if it is right she is congratulated, if not we explain again and she tries again until she can do it.   So how with this non-traditional approach could I uses this reward and what did I want it to reward?  I wanted her not so much to be rewarded  for knowing the answers, but reaching the goal of focusing.  This meant setting time limits for the first time in her education.  Not something encouraged or used in the Montessori Method, but my child needed to learn time management and that is one of the joys of homeschooling.  We are not stuck with one method. 

Then it struck me.  She could have a work reward chart, much like her chore chart.  When she worked well she would get a sticker on her chart and if she didn't she wouldn't.   I resolved to set time estimates of what would be reasonable lengths for her to take on each subject activity as she did them and set a timer.  If she finished within the allotted time, she got the sticker, if not she would not.  She would not be made to end the activity at the allotted time, just not rewarded.  After all the point of this was not to make her feel like a failure for not being fast enough, but to reward her for reaching a goal of focus, which we have been working on. Now to present the idea to her.  Would it work?

Much to my surprise she was very excited about this idea and even added her ideas to it. We now have a ranking system.  She gets a gold star if she finishes her work before the timer and well (we do not encourage sloppy work for the sake of time), Silver if she is almost finished(with in a couple minutes of the set time), and bronze if she does not finish in time but worked diligently throughout the time allotted.  

I was also reminded of the simplicity and understanding of children. We did not have the stickers this week as I had only came up with the idea on Wendsday morning, but this did not stop her from wanting to start it that day.  "Mommy we can just draw the stars" was her excited comment.  So that is what we did.  My 4 year old liked the idea so much he wanted his own chart as well!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Isn't it a great feeling when you find something that works!? Way to go!

    I had to use a similar method with a student while teaching first grade. It takes persistence to keep up with it, but the rewards are great. Seeing the student feel successful is a great feeling!