• Is there a valid argument for not giving a child a present/reward daily or am I thinking to hard about this and it is perfectly fine to give a child a daily present/reward?

So my daughter recently has really gotten into Pokemon cards and she just turned four a week ago. The other day I picked up a small $5 pack of her first cards and she was beyond happy. The entire way home she was even examining every detail of the pack and completely zoned out...

Anyways, I am trying to decide the best option to give her more. There are some Ebay lots that I am thinking of bidding on to get a good deal on some old, used cards for her. Some have upwards of 300 cards and are going for like $20-$30 or so. Given that she does not really know how to play the game at this point or anything I feel like this would be a way to give her a new card every day, after she correctly writes her daily alphabet letter, does something without me asking, etc.

On the other hand however I am also thinking that buying and giving her such a large or constant reward might... dull the effect?

I'm also worried that it might get her into the mindset that she deserves something everyday?... I would appreciate any thoughts from anyone that has been in this type of a situation and made the wrong choice or knows a reason why I should or should not be so worried, etc. Any ideas on different approaches to giving them to her?

  • 1
    not a full answer, just wanted to say to make sure you're emphasizing that she's being rewarded for something, and not just given the cards Sep 17, 2017 at 18:50
  • Definitely, but should I let her in on that from the beginning or wait until she figures it out herself. i.e. "Hey, every time you do something good without mommy or daddy asking you you will get a card as a reward" or just "thank you for cleaning your room, here is a card for being such a good girl" and see if she catches onto the system herself?
    – Odin1806
    Sep 17, 2017 at 19:12
  • 2
    Don't make her guess. IMO that makes no sense. Just tell her what you expect, and tell her the reward for fulfilling expectations. On another train of thought, I'd expect that once she has "enough" cards for her taste, the daily reward won't look so great to her. So expect to run out of a working reward system before you run out of cards. Sep 18, 2017 at 11:22

1 Answer 1


Honestly, I avoid that approach. I don't reward at all. I also do not punish. My children are permitted at times to work toward something they want but it's over and above normal things they do that help sustain the household or do their studies, etc.

This is a quote from an interview with Alfie Kohn who has wrote extensively on exactly this. You can read the interview here.

HEL: What does the research tell us about the relation between rewards and creativity?

Kohn: Rewards kill creativity. Some twenty studies have shown that people do inferior work when they are expecting to get a reward for doing it, as compared with people doing the same task without any expectation of a reward. That effect is most pronounced when creativity is involved in the task.

Rewards undermine risk-taking. When I have been led to think of the "A" or the sticker or the dollar that I'm going to get, I do as little as I have to, using the most formulaic means at my disposal, to get through the task so I can snag the goody. I don't play with possibilities. I don't play hunches that might not pay off. I don't attend to incidental stimuli that might or might not turn out to be relevant. I just go for the gold. Studies show that people who are rewarded tend to pick the easiest possible task. When the rewards are removed, we tend to prefer more challenging things to do. Everyone has seen students cut corners and ask: "Do we have to know this? Is this going to be on the test?"

But we have not all sat back to reflect on why this happens. It's not laziness. It's not human nature. It's because of rewards. If the question is "Do rewards motivate students? The answer is "Absolutely. They motivate students to get rewards." And that's typically at the expense of creativity.

Rewards undermine intrinsic motivation. At least seventy studies have shown that people are less likely to continue working at something once the reward is no longer available, compared with people who were never promised rewards in the first place. The more I reward a child with grades, for example, the less appeal those subjects will have to the child. It is one of the most thoroughly researched findings in social psychology, yet it is virtually unknown among educational psychologists, much less teachers and parents.

He also had a number of books on the matter. In those, he does cite all of the various studies he is using to support his claims.

This does not mean I don't gift to my children. I do. I do it in the same manner I gift my spouse. I don't give my husband a nice tablesaw because he did a good job. I give it because I know he wants it and I love him and it will bring him some happiness. I don't go out and buy him a whole woodshop setup at once, even if I could afford it, as that is a tad much and would overwhelm most people. So I gift to my children the same way.

And it is just really a different approach overall. I might tell my children that if they finish their schoolwork quickly, we will have time to go to the park before dinner. The park is not a reward, it's real life. In real life, you can do fun things if you have time. If we needed to clean up before the park and no one did it, then we cannot go, because we ran out of time and that isn't a punishment. That is just real life, again. If we get to the park and one of my kids is acting off, then I will speak to them. If it continues I tell them we have to leave. Again, it's not a punishment. If it's a little one running, I explain that it's a safety issue and if they cannot be safe, I need to take them home where there is a fence to keep them safe. It's it conflict with other children, I tell them I recognize they are not in the right mood to interact kindly with others, so we can go home where they can sort out what is happening with their mood in an appropriate space to explore what has gone wrong.

So it's not that my children don't have good & bad outcomes to behavior, it's that it's taught through words, listening, connecting. I have found it to work well for mine.

My concern with a reward a day is that real life doesn't work that way. If every day I do absolutely everything I am supposed to, I may not even get so much as a "thank you" that I am not reminding the kids to give. No one is going to come give me anything for doing what I need to do. I think childhood is the foundation for life expectations. If you are given something every day at 4, what about at 5? How long can you sustain giving her something she wants every single day and afford it? When you stop doing so, will she internalize that as something changing in how you feel about her? If you never stop until she is grown, will she grow to be a demanding partner that wants to be cherished at a level most people aren't interested in sustaining?

I don't know the answers to those questions, they are questions to ask about "what could be the downside" to rewarding. They are the questions that led me to just not reward at all. I don't even reward with words. Instead I say things that mirror to them, asking their feelings. I ask them if they are incredibly proud of that accomplishment. I ask if they feel sad about how they treated their sibling. I ask if they are embarrassed about the way they acted at the park (with compassion, not finger pointing). I ask them if they can see how much they have improved with practice. I ask them if they feel super brave because they faced that fear. I focus on how they feel about what they do, because in life, that is your only constant. I can't be there all the time. No one can. When no one is, I want them to want to do their best still, even if no one can see, even if no one else cares. I want them to grow up internally motivated to do things that make them feel excited and proud and accomplished. I want them to know what those feelings are and to seek them out just for the joy of what that feels like. I also make sure they hear me tell other people awesome things about them on a regular basis. I try to avoid them ever hearing anything that remotely sounds like a complaint, even to their dad. If I have an issue, I talk to them (and discuss later in private if needed, away from their ears).

  • I agree with this a lot. How would you give a number of cards to your children if they wanted them? Would you give them all at once or batches?
    – Odin1806
    Sep 21, 2017 at 2:02
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    @Odin1806 it depends on the child. I have children that could get 20 in one day and take care of them and others that 20 at once would likely result in them seeming less valuable and treating them like trash. For things like this I might make a game of it, with clues, like a treasure hunt, etc. I just make it fun. Most gifting here is done on holidays, but I gift for every single one imaginable. We even have a leprechaun that comes at St Patrick's days & since they are naughty he does things like gift you new underwear, toothpaste and things you don't really want.
    – threetimes
    Sep 21, 2017 at 5:11
  • I love the treasure hunt idea. That is a great idea. Thank you for the advice!
    – Odin1806
    Sep 21, 2017 at 14:42

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