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Rewards…Going beyond $$$

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re·ward

rəˈwôrd/

noun –  a thing given in recognition of one’s service, effort, or achievement.
I recently spoke at a teacher training course at an Arts School.  

Of course, the age-old question popped up:  “How do you get kids to practice?”  

“Yup, there it is,” I thought to myself.  

Really, I don’t have a tremendous amount of practice problems with my students.  Thanks, parents, for doing a great job with your kids!

Just in case, however, you are having one of ‘those’ weeks, and you are feeling the need to offer a practice incentive, take a look at these tips. 

Rewards should be accompanied by specific praise for the child.

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You might say, “I really like how you keep on working on Fur Elise.  Your teacher is going to be so proud of you.”  (And, be assured, I’ll notice!)  This is better than saying “You are becoming so good at piano.”

Keep the praise focused on the behavior of the child.  

Don’t give a reward as a bribe. Give the praise after the child has practiced when told (or on their own) and not offered beforehand. Don’t say things like “If you practice today, I will buy you a new ________.” “Your child may decide your bribe is not worth practicing for. Remember – you are trying to teach good behavior, not pay off bad behavior.” 

I concede.   Perhaps my offering a small prize for practicing her assigned time/days could be construed as a bribe.  However, after a long day of school and then evening activities, I see no harm in a small treat for a week of practice

Keep rewards related to behavior whenever possible.

As often as you can, create a reward that supports what you want the child to learn; maybe there is a concert or musical production that she’d enjoy going to (as a long-term reward).

Don’t promise rewards you can’t deliver.

Some weeks we are desperate for our kids to practice, and we get ourselves trapped by rewards that we can’t afford, either in time or money.  If you find yourself needing to offer rewards for piano practice, I encourage you to think through your  plan for rewarding good behavior and don’t promise more than you can deliver.  

Don’t give rewards if bad behavior occurs with good behavior.

If you ask your child to practice her piano after dinner, for example, and he does, but throws a fit or swears at you when doing it, don’t reward him.  If a child misbehaves, the reward should be null and void.  

Decide ahead of time what behavior you want and how much “less” than  you’ll accept.

Here is a list of rewards that you may want to try with your school-aged kids. Many of them are low or no cost and can be done anywhere.

Source:  Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance

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