Guest Author - Celestine A. Jones
Students with disabilities often struggle with situations beyond their control. Academics, social, and communication skills sometimes suffer due to past negative experiences with the peers and low performance. As a result, self-esteem may suffer.
As parents and teachers, we can boost self-esteem and increase motivation by making small adjustments to the way we deal with minor success in children. Rewarding the small accomplishments every time is a way to build confidence. Rewards should be picked wisely.
The first thing to consider is motivators for the child. A reward is not really a reward if the child has no interest in it. I was watching a movie that involved troubled teens that were sent to a behavior camp. In an attempt to reward the students, the counselor offered an unpopular snack. Of course this reward was not appreciated and the effort that was being made by the kids decreased.
A concern of some parents is the feeling of bribery. Is it a reward or bride? According to The Free Dictionary, a bribe is something, such as money or a favor, offered or given to a person in a position of trust to influence that personís views or conduct. It is something serving to influence or persuade. Although there is a thin line between rewarding every time and bribery, offering a reward for accomplishments after the task is complete signifies a reward.
Thinking in kid terms, candy and snacks would be ideal. The question is, how appropriate is their dream snack? Their dream snack would definitely not be appropriate. There are many little rewards that can be given by parents, such as staying up an hour late, game or computer time, trip to the park, or time off from chores.
The same can be true for classroom rewards. Teachers often have a hard time turning negative feelings about school into a positive experience. Candy can be an easy fix, but inappropriate. Unhealthy eating habits can develop quickly. Non-food rewards would be a better choice. More suitable rewards consist of praise, certificates of recognition, interactive educational programs on the computer, or a positive phone call home. Something as simple as a smile can change the outcome of a bad situation.
Virtual schools are more popular now than ever. There are ways to provide positive reinforcement. Rewards can be offered even though there may be no face to face contact. It is important to make the desired outcome clear. A measurable goal is also useful in determining whether the reward increased self-esteem and motivated the child.
Intangible rewards, such as a pat on the back and praise can be used anytime. Once it is determined that the desired behavior has been accomplished, the rewards can decrease and eventually stop. Be creative in developing a reward system. Things that may work for one child may not be appreciated for another. Sometimes the smallest reward can change the attitude of a child.