“I’m The Kind Of Kid Who . . . “
Daniel Willingham, the UVA psychologist, explains why paying kids for good grades isn’t a good idea:
“The problem is one of attribution. When we observe other people act, we speculate on their motives. If I see two people gardening—one paid and the other unpaid—I’m likely to assume that one gardens because he’s paid and the other because he enjoys gardening.
It turns out that we make these attributions about our own behavior as well. If my child tries her hardest on a test she’s likely to think ‘I’m the kind of kid who always does her best, even on tasks she don’t care for.’ If you pay her for her performance she’ll think ‘I’m the kind of kid who tries hard when she’s paid.’
This research [on the effect of extrinsic rewards on motivation] began in the 1970′s and has held up very well. Kids work harder for rewards. . . until the rewards stop. Then they engage in the task even less than they did before the rewards started.” Read more here.
Makes sense to me, and points up the important role that parents and teachers play in shaping how children conceptualize themselves and their reasons for doing things. With every action we take towards them, we’re sending them messages about the kind of person we expect them to be.