Sunday, March 13, 2016


              A couple of weeks ago, I was at a friend’s gathering and a teacher told me that her principal would not give rewards to her students because the students needed to learn on how to be motivated intrinsically because it was the right thing to do.
As a counselor I immediately reacted and discussed on how children are not aware of intrinsic reward until much later in life because their development is that of a child and it begins with extrinsically motivating them and then it develops into intrinsic motivation.
I remembered the theorist Lawrence Kohlberg in the theory of Moral Development and in the stages where people get to doing on what is right. I then wanted to look up to see if  it was possible for children to learn to do the right thing just because and was external rewards really needed. Well after some research this is what I found:

  • Extrinsic motivators are best applied in situations where people have little initial interest in performing the activity or in cases where basic skills are lacking, but these rewards should be kept small and should be tied directly to the performance of a specific behavior. Once some intrinsic interest has been generated and some essential skills have been established, the external motivators should be slowly phased out.

Examples of behaviors that are the result of extrinsic motivation include:
  • Studying because you want to get a good grade
  • Cleaning your room to avoid being reprimanded by your parents
  • Participating in a sport to win awards
  • Competing in a contest to win a scholarship
In each of these examples, the behavior is motivated by a desire to gain a reward or avoid an adverse outcome.
Intrinsic motivation involves engaging in behavior because it is personally rewarding; essentially, performing an activity for its own sake rather than the desire for some external reward.

Examples of actions that are the result of intrinsic motivation include:
  • Participating in a sport because you find the activity enjoyable
  • Solving a word puzzle because you find the challenge fun and exciting
  • Playing a game because you find it exciting
In each of these instances, the person's behavior is motivated by an internal desire to participate in an activity for its own sake.
Extrinsic motivation can be beneficial in some situations, however:
  • External rewards can induce interest and participation in something in which the individual had no initial interest.
  • Extrinsic rewards can be used to motivate people to acquire new skills or knowledge. Once these early skills have been learned, people may then become more intrinsically motivated to pursue the activity.
  • External rewards can also be a source of feedback, allowing people to know when their performance has achieved a standard deserving of reinforcement.
Extrinsic motivators should be avoided in situations where:
  • The individual already finds the activity intrinsically rewarding
  • Offering a reward might make a "play" activity seem more like "work"
when used appropriately, extrinsic motivators can be a useful tool. For example, extrinsic motivation can be used to get people to complete a work task or school assignment in which they have no internal interest.

"A person's interest often survives when a reward is used neither to bribe nor to control but to signal a job well done,
  1. Unexpected external rewards typically do not decrease intrinsic motivation. For example, if you get a good grade on a test because you enjoy learning about the subject and the teacher decides to reward you with a gift card to your favorite pizza place, your underlying motivation for learning about the subject will not be affected. However, this needs to be done with caution because people will sometimes come to expect such rewards.
  2. Praise can help increase internal motivation. Researchers have found that offering positive praise and feedback when people do something better in comparison to others can improve intrinsic motivation.
  3. Intrinsic motivation will decrease, however, when external rewards are given for completing a particular task or only doing minimal work. For example, if parents heap lavish praise on their child every time he completes a simple task, he will become less intrinsically motivated to perform that task in the future.
So conclusion, what I learned is that kids and adults can have some intrinsic motivation, however to get kids and adults to do something they don’t want to do you have to:
1.    Use external rewards until that behaviors becomes intrinsic. Basically you given them something they want for doing something they did not like to do so many times until they start enjoying that unlikeable task. Then no more rewards.
2.    Praising such as way to go in doing…, great job in doing… keep up the good work in … I believe in you in doing… will help in having them do something that they don’t like to do.
3.    And Don’t reward something they already like doing because then they will not like doing it anymore. 

Do you think people should be given rewards to get them to do something or it is something that should be learned without the need of any reward or positive praise?

Anita Sandoval MA, LPC-S

 Broken Chains Blog:


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