Does Reward Better Motivate Children Than Punishment?

Consider This:

There are no such things as rewards, but rather altered forms of punishments. For example, if a child were to be rewarded candy after scoring an A on a test, he or she would expect that same treatment again if he or she performed that act once more, thus performing off the motivation to obtain candy rather than  for personal achievement. The problem that starts to arise is the mindset of the child. He or she has set a new value of rewards higher, meaning that he or she becomes an individual would see the act of not receiving candy after scoring well on a test negatively. This negative connotation can be seen in the results of a punishment, therefore suggesting that rewarding is similar to punishing; however, rewarding also helps build an undesirable mindset, which is why it is a faulty way of raising children.


The long-term effects of rewarding result in an undesirable mindset. The effect of rewarding “comes at the expense of interest and excellence in whatever they are doing” (Kohn). As previously stated, the mindsets of the children that start to be rewarded only work to achieve their reward rather than “excellence in whatever they are doing.” In addition to have insufficient amount of effort in work, rewarding also causes “a child who has been promised something for learning or acting responsibly…to stop doing this when there is no reward to get” (Kohn). Children raised using rewards as motivation stop doing what they are told if they are not given a reward. This creates a spoiled mindset.


Through rewarding, children are raised to be less independent–they are motivated to perform an act because of a reward (like candy), rather than the reward of performing that act (getting a good test score): “intrinsic motivation (an interest in the task for his own satisfaction) is qualitatively different from extrinsic motivation (in which the fulfillment of the task is seen primarily as a prerequisite for something else)”(Kohn). Intrinsic motivation is the type of motivation that leads a person to complete tasks for himself or herself rather than obtaining motivation off others.This faulty mindset also suggest to children that “they can’t trust their own decisions” and they should “always seek an ‘expert’ opinion before proceeding with a project, and that it is unwise to rely on their own perceptions and intuitions about the world around them” (Hunt). Therefore, educators must rather ask the inquiry of how their students are motivated rather than how motivated the students are.

Arguments Against Punishment

Some people say that punishment is faulty way of raising children because it teaches children what not to do rather than what to do. This is false because punishments teach children both what not to do and what to do, whereas rewarding only focuses on teaching what to do.  Punishment tells the child to not do a certain act, therefore enforces the idea of what to do: “We are more inclined to avoid actual loss than to strive for conditional benefits” (Lapowsky). Hanson also states that “negative feedback improved performance more for these individuals than did positive feedback,” so enforce punishment.

Works Cited

Hanson, Robin. “Reward or Punish?” Overcoming Bias. N.p. 31 May. 2013. Web. 28 March. 2015. <

Hunt, Jan. “The Trouble with Rewards.” The Natural Child Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. <

Kohn, Alfie. “Risk Rewards.” Alfie Kohn. Alfie Kohn, n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. <

Lapowsky, Issie. “Reward vs. Punishment: What Motivates People More?” Inc. N.p. 2 April 2013. Web. 28 March 2015. <


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