Show ‘Em the Money! What Kids Want Teachers and Parents to Know About Reinforcement

Parents, teachers and other adults need to realize that it is all very well to hope that an innate sense of moral obligation will cause Jimmy to clean his room or raise his hand in class, but if you want the job done easily and well, then you need to pay with currency that kids value.

What do kids really want for reinforcement? How can we possibly find out? Social worker Lynn Loar PhD decided to ask them. The simple answer  was candy, for one thing; money for another. But it’s more complicated than that, as these kids explain in an article published in the the Summer/Fall 2009 issue of the Latham Letter. The article is authored by Lynn Loar and five young co-authors.

Kid authors Hilary Louie, Evelyn Pang, Michelle Ma, Maya Rankupalli and Geoffrey Pott are experienced with clicker training, TAGteaching and the concept of reinforcement and they explain why certain things are reinforcing and in what context. Lynn Loar sums it up as follows:

“So, there you have it. Be generous, sincere and specific. Use candy and money as reinforcers, even if you prefer other things. As Maya shows, children move on from candy, pennies and toys to more mature and altruistic reinforcers when they are ready. Clicker trainers know to let the learner set the pace; let your students develop this broader perspective at their own pace and don’t begrudge the candy and pennies in the meantime.”

Click here to read the entire article.

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