In response to the post, “Using Rewards,” and the subsequent comment, a reader writes:
“I don’t think any teacher would condone “false flattery” to promote a child academically. It’s the idea that a teacher is actually looking for the good and acknowledging the student’s progress.”
Let me re-post the line from my comment so I can present it in better context. I wrote, “…I think that it is “achieving goals” that is the critical concept. False flattery and unearned praise does not lead to the sense of accomplishment and pride that drives significant behavior change.”
By false flattery, I was really addressing two issues. First, I don’t believe in the practice of “everyone always gets an award.” If everyone always gets an award, no one has to work for anything. I (the student) know when I didn’t get the job done, if you lie to me and tell me I did, I’m never going to trust you and I’m never going to equate effort with reward.
On the other hand, I’m (me again) a firm believer in shaping behavior. If as an adult, I know that you have no chance of achieving the big goal, I should break the big goal down into smaller objectives and coach and reward as those objectives are achieved.
Second, the concept of false flattery lends itself to the practice of generic or unspecific praise. Random “good jobs,” are much less powerful than, “I really appreciate your comment. It shows that you are really thinking about this assignment and it allowed me to clarify some information for the entire class. Good job.”
Finally, I have seen all types, adults who don’t believe in shaping behavior, adults who believe in shielding students from all accountability and adults who try to effectively use any tool that will lead their students to success in the classroom and beyond.
Think. Work. Achieve.