'What Do I Get?' Syndrome

If your kids are constantly asking, "How much do I get if I do it?" or saying, "I'll do it if you pay me!", you're not alone. Leading child and parenting expert Dr. Michele Borba calls it 'What Do I Get?' Syndrome and says that it's part of a widespread childhood epidemic. Here's her take for parents whose kids are "Hooked on Rewards:"


Translation: They expect the gold stars, stickers, or monetary prizes for a job well done. Of course we want our kids to succeed: We're tickled pink when they do. So we award that perfect spelling test, winning soccer goal or tantrum-free play date with a few dollars or special treat.

Beware, parents: Those rewards and incentives can backfire. The more kids receive the more they seem to expect. And the more they expect, the more we rob them of developing the ability to motivate themselves. In the end, our kids have to be their own cheerleaders and learn to count on themselves, not us. After all, one of our most important parenting goals is for our kids to learn to act right without us.

If your child is suffering from the "What do I get?" Syndrome, here are some strategies from my book, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries.

Take a stand and stay committed. The first step is simple: Stop giving material rewards for every little thing. Take a firm stand against unnecessary incentives. Just expect your kid to help out at home and do the best she can in school and other activities. This is the only way your child will learn to be self-reliant, independent, and self-motivated.

State what you see. The very next time your kid does something noteworthy, keep your wallet closed. Instead, state a simple judgment-free comment: "You rode your bike all by yourself!" or, "Wow, you really put a lot of work into this report. Good for you!" or simply, "You did it."

Ask questions to boost internal pride. Instead of being so quick to reinforce your kid, find out what pleased her about the job she did. The trick is to nurture your kid's internal motivation by putting the success back inside her corner.

Switch your pronouns from "I" to "you." One of the easiest ways to wean kids away from external control is simply to change the pronouns in your praise and switch your "I" to "you." This simple switch takes the emphasis off your approval and puts more on the child's acknowledging her appropriate actions. Here is an example of how you might use the pronoun switch: I statement: "I'm really proud of how hard you worked today." You statement: "You must be really proud of how hard you worked today."

When it comes to self motivation, it's all about tips 5 & 6. Click here!

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