What are the Ways and Means to Motivate Children ?

Let us examine the effectiveness of certain ways and means which school teachers use for motivating their children. Some of these are punishment, rewards, and prizes, success, approval and disapproval, praise and blame.

Experiments have been made to determine the effectiveness of these positive or negative means of motivation, and the results are given below:

Punishment and reproof are found relatively ineffective. It has been found that students do not improve when subjected to sarcasm, ridicule and public reprimand. The general opinion of students is that if reprimand is necessary it should be in private.

If blame is to be administered it should be judicious. Judicious blame gives good results. It has been found by Hurlock that the progress of children, who were reproved and blamed in front of the class for their poor work, went down. He also found that the children, who were ignored for their good or bad work and who heard the praise or reproof of others showed no progress at all.

There is another study by Brenner in which it has been found that neither praise nor blame was particularly effective. Praise or blame may be effective or ineffective according to the way it is administered, the conditions under which it is given, the reason for which it is offered and the interpretations made by the child.

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Experimental Studies on Effectiveness of Rewards and Punishment

Rewards and Punishments have been traditionally used as particularly effective ways of inducing children to learn but experiments show otherwise. When an act helps in the attainment of goal it functions as a reward.

On the other hand, when an act does not help in the attainment of the goal it works as punishment. Reward acts as facilitator, and punishment as inhibitor.


Throndike in his ‘Law of Effect’ has told us that the learner is more likely to respond to those stimuli which past experience has shown to be satisfying and does not respond to those ones which past experience has shown not to be satisfying.

Following him educators generally believe that learning takes place when a motivated child is rewarded. Thorndike has advised school teachers that they should use as much reward as possible and conversely as little punishment as possible, because he believed that punishment would disorganize the learning process and lead to undesirable or at least unexpected learning.

Thorndike thought that reward had a favorable effect on learning and he presumed that punishment had an unfavorable one.

But experiments later have given confusing results. In a study under school-room conditions Klardu and Cohen found that these commonly used incentives are not as effective as has been supposed.


Similarly, Forlans found after extensive experiments on the use of money as a motivating device in school, that rewards were not as effective as would be accepted.

Rock, in his investigation for finding the influence upon learning of the quantitative variation of reward, concluded that merely telling a person that he is right is just as effective as telling him he is right and giving him money.

Knowledge of progress and praise or reward, when giving together, does not show significant benefits over the knowledge of progress alone.

Increase in size of reward or increase in the intensity of motivation has been found effective in learning. If the bonus is increased each time, students break their former records for performance. In other words increase in the reward accelerates the performance.

Forms of Rewards and Their Effectiveness

Rewards that motivate or accelerate performance are of three kinds:

(1) Material-a piece of candy, a sum of money, right to participate in student activities etc.

(2) Symbolic-gold stars, medals, honour rolls etc.

(3) Psychological-knowledge of progress, recognition of adequacy, growth towards adequacy etc.

Rewards, whatever their form may be, ensure safety, indicate esteem and satisfy needs of love and belongingness. In this way, by need satisfaction they motivate the pupil in his initial contact with an area of knowledge.

Bruner (1961), has criticized the giving of external rewards because they promote undesirable behaviour. The extrinsic motivations can be justified only, on the ground that they lead to intrinsic motivation.

For example, when one gets high marks, parental approbation or gold star because of standing first is his class, the knowledge so gained may become of interest (intrinsic) to the individual child and he may then pursues further knowledge after the lure of reward has ceased to exist.

Rewards should lead students to learn activities outside the class-room. The real reward for reading is not the gold star but the desire to read further and enter into the realm of great thinkers.

Confirmation of Success

Success motivates the continuation of activity. ‘Nothing succeeds like success’ has practical implications for a teacher. School work should be so organized that every pupil has a chance to succeed at his level. No one activity in the school should be capitalized.

One child may get success in the academic studies and the other may succeed on the playing field. Success comes through a variety of experiences and success so achieved helps the individual child to satisfy his needs of esteem, belongingness and self-actualization.

Success builds self-confidence and increases efficiency. It encourages pupils to set realistic goals.

If the child is to stay in the school, he should meet success at his own level. Special classes and remedial work may be organized for those who are unable to meet success in academic work.

Cent per cent promotion policies may be adopted or curriculum may be transformed so that the learning material is made appropriate to his children’s background and ability.


The teacher, who recognizes the worth of deserved praise as a motivating device, sees his pupils clearly and understands them. As soon as they detects humor, leadership, curiosity, independence, artistic aptitudes and other human traits in his pupils he recognizes them and praises them. In this way, he satisfies their need of esteem, belongingness and self-actualization.

The effectiveness of praise as a motivating factor depends upon two things-it should be deserved and it should be given in an appropriate manner. Praise maybe verbal or non-verbal the examples of non-verbal praise are a nod, a smile, placing one’s hand on the pupils’ shoulders, stopping long enough to take a good look at what the pupil is doing.

Knowledge of Progress

Pupil’s knowledge that he is progressing is an extremely effective way of motivation. Ask your children to correct their own paper, and make their own charts of progress; they will be stimulated to make further progress. Let children evaluate their work periodically; they will achieve better.

Even if the teacher asks his students in the last few minutes of discuss what they have learned, they get the prompt knowledge of progress. Knowledge of progress gives satisfaction to status and esteem needs, and then, acts as a good motivator.


In few cases blame works as a positive incentive. The success of awarding blame depends upon a variety of factors. It is better not to use it. But it is good to use it when it is deserved.

The teacher should know and understand the individual child upon whom he is showing blame. It should not be given to the retiring student because it increases feelings of inferiority in him.

It may be given to an extroverted child because he achieves more when blamed than when praised.

The successful teacher watches the effect of praise or blame upon the individual child and sees his reaction. In no case a child should be ignored because by ignoring a child we stimulate him less than by either praising or blaming.

Level of Aspiration

Good teachers use appropriate tasks according to levels of difficulty. Level of aspiration is the degree of difficulty of a task that child will accept and strive for.

For example, if the difficulty level be such that the child can stretch himself and strive for it he will be motivated to achieve it; but if the difficulty level is too great and the task is too difficult for him to achieve he will leave the field and if forced to strive to achieve it, he will show anger, disobedience and sullenness; and if the task is too easy, he will transfer his attention to other activities and if forced to achieve the too-easy-task, he shall be bored and hate it.

In the class-room situation the teacher should first form a valid estimate of the pupil’s potential and the appropriate goals. The clues to the appropriateness of goal will be offered by the pupil’s behaviour in terms of acceptance, rejection or withdrawal.

Child’s past records should be studied to set goal appropriate to the potential. The level of aspiration and the setting of tasks appropriate to it will serve as a motivating factor.

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