How behavior management rewards can create significant obstacles in preschool

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Behavior Management Rewards

Are you struggling with behavior management rewards in your classroom? Should you have a treasure box in your preschool classroom?   There seems to be two schools of thought on this and I must admit I have been on both sides of the issue.   When I first began teaching, it was commonplace for almost every classroom to have some form of treat box to reward their students for good behavior.  

how behavior management rewards can create significant obstacles in preschool

Behavior Management Definition

The definition of behavior management within the classroom environment is very simple. It is the plan that you use to hold students accountable for their behavior. It can be as simple or complex as you wish. For ideas on creating a behavior management plan, check out this article.

My personal experience using behavior management rewards

In the early days of my teaching career, each student in my classroom started Monday with a clean slate.  Negative choices throughout the week could result in them not getting to choose from the treasure box on Friday, while positive choices resulted in a trip to the treasure box.  Of course, they were able to earn the treat back by correcting their choices throughout the week.  

Over the years, my thoughts on this subject have changed.

As a new teacher who struggled with classroom management, I took every opportunity available to attempt to make my classroom run more smoothly.  However, as I grew and my teaching abilities grew, I noticed a few things about the treat box matter.  

One of the things that I noticed was that the delight did not balance out the heartbreak.  This raised some serious questions.  What type of teacher did I want to be?  Did I really want to send any child home at the end of the week feeling as though they had failed in my classroom?

 These questions led to some serious soul-searching on my part.

How rewards can cause behavior management obstacles

More evidence to support the treasure box leaving my classroom was the fact that it didn’t have the desired impact, because it didn’t have any lasting effect on behavior.  I found that the same students were missing out each and every week.  No matter how many reminders or additional chances were given it seemed they rarely got to choose a treat.  What did this mean?  Certainly they wanted to get a treat.  So, perhaps the issue wasn’t desire but ability.  These students were not choosing to make negative choices. They simply had not yet achieved the level of impulse control necessary to stay “on green” for an entire week.

The lack of treat box visits did not help them understand the effect of their choices on those around them.  It neither helped them regulate their emotions or prevent negative behaviors.

can treats cause more behavior problems

It did make them sad and give them a negative impression of school and also made some of the students have a negative opinion of me as their teacher.  My role as a teacher is not to make children sad but to help them learn to be better people.  The only thing a treat box did was allow me power over my students. This is not the role that I want to play in the lives of my students. 

Adjusting your perspective

I want my students to view me as a positive person in their life, an adult who has their best interest at heart and as an adult who loves and cares about them and only wants to see them thrive. The treasure box was actually holding me back from achieving this goal. 

For the last several years, the treasure box has been absent from my classroom and I have seen no negative effects from this. There have been no more behavior issues than in years past. I use various other methods of classroom management such as a friendship meter to aid in teaching the students appropriate behavior.

Allow yourself to grow

If anything, not having this to fall back on has made me a better teacher.  It has forced me to  devise new and improved ways of managing social-emotional and behavioral issues in my classroom.  I now teach my students how to manage their emotions and the impact their choices have on the classroom family as a whole.

Whatever choice you make for your classroom is yours alone.  However, if you are a teacher who uses a reward system, I challenge you to try something new this year.  Consider the possibility that the lack of a treasure box in your classroom could allow you to grow as an educator and allow your students to grow as humans.

Free Teaching Resources

If you are looking for some more ideas for your classroom, I have a free resource library that I am adding to regularly. It has classroom activities and printables that are ready to go.

do rewards work in preschool

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Share your opinions on this topic on the Facebook page.  I would love to hear what has and has not worked in your classroom or anything else you would like to discuss regarding teaching.

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