The Age of Rewards


Stars or not?

Stars or not?

Stickers? Candy? Stars on a chart? If a reward is waiting, will the child work harder? Do better? Want to go home and learn more?

In my  humble opinion, either the successful children earn the rewards all the time, and the poor students have one more thing they cannot do. Or, the rewards are set up for the poor students because they need a boost, while the hard worker receives nothing. Then, the child of a higher intelligence doesn’t see the point of working harder.  After four decades of teaching different grade levels, the ‘ages’ of reward ideas came and went. The following ideas worked well for me either as rewards for behavior or for finishing work early.

The Age of Stickers  Teachers were spending a small fortune buying beautiful stickers for well done work and behavior that improved. Instead, in our classroom,  there was a basket with the sticker freebies [Actually quite nice as they were for the teachers to use.] that came with the book orders. The students were told to take one if they wanted one.  Seldom taken, the children did enjoy making their own decision as to whether they should have one. (First grade.)

The Age of Candy  Some classrooms had gallon jars filled with candy to give the students. In our class, candy was limited to one event: good behavior outside the room. The class as a whole had to receive a compliment from another adult for their good behavior  in the hallways.  (Quietness, straight line, getting drinks properly, etc.) As they re-entered the classroom, one single, lone, little M&M was taken by each child from the candy box.  If there were two compliments, there were two candies.  Yes, they loved it. (First grade.)

P.S. Holding the candy box was one of the classroom jobs.

The Age of Sharing If a student wanted to share something they wrote or a new idea that they figured out in math, they came to the front of the room with a friend and told their classmates all about it. (Grades 1-4.)

The Age of Reading  A stack of books on a topic in science or social studies was available for anyone who finished his classwork early.  Some were picture books, and some had in-depth articles. (Grades 1-4.)

The Age of Blocks  Having an industrial arts background, I had a stack of mini blocks I’d painted.  Kept in a basket, they could be used for five minutes. (Second grade.)

The Age of Drawing  Early in the school year,  I taught the children how to draw simple figures using math shapes – squares, triangles, etc.  Later, thumbprint [oval] designs were used as taught in a popular children’s book. (Ed Emberley) Blank paper and markers were on a table for those who finished early. (Grades 1-4.)

The Age of Charts and Smiley Faces   A giant chart had the children’s names listed on the left, while the dates of the spelling tests were across the top. Small stickers were put up to show the test was taken.   Oops, I take it back.  The smiley face was orange if the test was 100%, and yellow to show it was taken.

Not only did I save  money on treats and stickers and small rewards, but the children learned that work completed and well done was, truly, its own reward.


Defuse Bullying Behavior

book cover

Everyday bullies are everywhere. A clerk delays waiting on one person while serving others who arrived later.

A parent makes a comment in a public place guaranteed to set the child off or vice-verse.  A ‘double bully’ is one person allowing the bullying behavior of another to continue. It takes diligence to defuse the actions that squash someone’s right to the pursuit of happiness.

One approach to stop this behavior is your willingness to act differently. “To change others, begin with yourself.” Pay attention to your thoughts. “What you think, you become.” Are you thinking angry thoughts? This form of ‘mental bullying’ leads to ‘outward bullying’.  Worse, it attracts a bully to you. “Like attracts like.”

In my book Can Dragons and Frogs Be Friends? the bully, a fire-breathing dragon, chases and eats frogs. When the dragon is in trouble, a frog takes a chance and changes his own behavior. This causes the dragon’s viewpoint of the frogs to change, and he stops being a bully and discovers a friend.


On the last day of school, a fourth grade student stopped to see his next year teacher to tell her that he was looking forward to being in her class. The teacher answered, “I can’t wait to have you in my class! We will have a great year!” Off he went with a smile. In the office file drawer, there was a three-inch thick folder of his behavior problems. Over the summer, the teacher barely scanned it. Most important, the file did not become a checklist of expectations that would preclude any possible progress. On the first day of school, the student arrived early along with his mom with his smile and his plan for changing himself. The arriving class was given a heads up to allow the young man to change. They did. He did. It was a happy year. Past behavior was dissolved by everyone’s willingness to change.

A second key to deflect and diffuse bullying behavior is to create an atmosphere in which a bully finds no victim or partner. Increase your compassion for others. Memorize quotes that lift your thoughts. Sing with joy! Pay attention to the good around you. Be grateful. As Forest Squirrel says in the above mentioned book, ‘Say thank you a lot.” A bully’s anger dissolves in the face of true deep down compassion as Throckmorton, the dragon, discovered.

A third key that counters and obliterates bullying is what a friend mentioned after hearing of this article. “You can’t be bullied if you have self-confidence.” The idea resonated. When you know who you are and what you believe, when you know what you love, then you walk tall, speak firmly and clearly and become a confident ‘you’ that simply cannot be bullied. For there is nothing to be bullied!

In essence, to defuse and destroy bullying behavior change your actions, create an atmosphere of kindness, and build your self-confidence. For lack of victim or partner, bullying behaviors will disappear.