Verbal Praise Versus External Rewards

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Verbal Praise versus External Reward: Effects on Children
When it comes to child performance, is verbal praise better than external reward? There has been growing research in recent years that suggests the theory that neither verbal praise nor external rewards are beneficial to children. “A child deserves to take delight in [their] accomplishments, to feel pride in what [they’ve] learned how to do”. This theory suggests that adults take shortcuts and “manipulate kids with rewards instead of explaining and helping them to develop needed skills and good values” (Kohn). So is this true? Let’s take a look at the effects of verbal praise and external reward on children.

Verbal Praise
Does praise increase positive behavior?
In many
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“You’re amazing! I’ve never heard anyone sing better!”), you may send the wrong message. The child might conclude that your standards are superhuman. How can they possibly live up to that? Praise that conveys unrealistically high standards can become a source of pressure, and make kids feel inadequate.
There’s less research showing that social rewards—like praise—can produce the same effect. However, a recent brain study reveals that social rewards (like praise) and tangible rewards (like money) activate the same regions of the brain (Izuma et al 2008). And a food-tasting experiment performed on children found that praise, like tangible rewards, made kids like a food less (Birch et al 1984). But the key point seems to be that praise must be given every time, so that kids expect to be praised for the behavior. When praise is unexpected or spontaneous, it remains a powerful motivating force.

External Reward
When trying to teach a child a new skill, a good behavior, or why it’s important to complete a task, external rewards aren’t the best approach. Research proves that the use of external rewards such as a sticker, candy, or any other prize, is bad for five main reasons; (1) Rewards reduce internal motivation. (2) Rewards do not produce permanent change. (3) Rewards can be controlling. (4) Rewards make a child focus on a task quickly in order to receive a prize. (5) Children come to expect a reward in return for good behavior.
If an adult
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