How rewarding good behaviour can harm children

Popular school systems for rewarding good behaviour are actually harming children, according to an internationally renowned psychologist and expert in character education.

Prize-giving assemblies, motivational posters and gifts for children who do well are “killing” classroom culture, argues Marvin Berkowitz, professor of character education at the University of Missouri-St Louis.

The academic says research shows such rewards are counterproductive and that positive role models – in school or at home – are a far more powerful and benign influence on children’s characters.

Professor Berkowitz said that praising a child in public could be problematic. If a pupil’s good character or behaviour was highlighted in class or at an assembly, he said, “at this point everybody hates [that child], she’s uncomfortable, the teacher is killing the culture of my classroom”.

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