Friday, August 29, 2008

Positive Reinforcement

As student in a BYU classroom management class I thought that classroom reward systems were a bunch of baloney. I thought that offering stickers for something students should be doing anyway would in fact decrease their intrinsic motivation. As a teacher, I later found out that that is absolutely true, but only for those 3 students that already have intrinsic motivation. As it turns out, intrinsic motivation is not a quality a teacher can sufficiently instill in students in the short amount of time before self destruction due to insane amounts of stress caused by too many students in too small a space misbehaving. And so, I learned the merits of immediate reinforcement of positive behavior, and even bribery.

There are some things I do well, in large part due to intrinsic motivation. There are some things I do quite poorly, or not at all due to lack of intrinsic motivation. I'm coming to the realization that I could possibly create an outside source of motivation in order to create the habit, and perhaps discover the natural benefits of good behavior leading into good behavior caused by intrinsic motivation. Actually, for a psychology class once I taught myself how to get out of bed on the first ring of the alarm (rather than the 9th ring of 3 alarm clocks) through a simple reward system, but even as I put my stickers on my chart, I knew that the true motivation was that I was going to have to report on my experiment to my teacher.

Unfortunately, I seem to be fresh out of authority figures expecting me to report on my progress. In fact, I've mentioned my plan to a few people that could possibly motivate me, but none of them showed much interest. In not showing interest they lost all power as a motivator, because deep down I know it won't be a big deal to them if I fail. ( I didn't ask them to be authority figures, I just told them what I was thinking of improving on. They would probably be willing to be a motivator, but I wouldn't be motivated by them.) There are a few people that I can imagine would be very "encouraging" in this particular quest, but I really want to like those people, and I don't think I'm strong enough to continue liking someone who is already good at what I want to be good at who is continually encouraging me to be better. (Jordan has bad memories of me on a bike encouraging her to run farther in training for the volleyball team. I have bad memories of Courtlin on a bike encouraging me to keep running. I think we still like each other, but only because we liked each other a whole lot before those experiences, and because we all had pretty much the same weakness.)

So, I decided that I need a tangible reward system. I'm going to create a chart, and make it daily more beautiful by filling in the boxes with pretty colored markers, but I know that's not going to be enough motivation for this particular weakness. I need something special every perfect week or so. So, I started thinking, "What would be really motivating to me?" I'm having a really hard time coming up with anything. The obvious answer for me would be some kind of really special dessert, except that in this case it would be working directly against eventually seeing the natural benefits of good behavior. So, that's out. What else do I really like? There are some material things I really like, books for example, but I really dislike spending money, and so I'm not sure the yucky spending money feeling will cancel out the "cool a book!" feeling. I really like spending time alone with Kevin, so I thought, maybe every so many perfect days I get to hire a babysitter and do something with him, but I'm not sure it's really fair to him to deprive us of that in the case of poor behavior. So, I need some suggestions here. What do I really like? What will motivate me? What has motivated you? Will someone come do all my laundry if I succeed?


Blogger breckster said...

Have your chart be a map of the US, and every square get you closer to NY, and then when you get to NY you come visit ME!

And for short term rewards you can check out a special book from the library. or you can go to lunch with a friend, or an extra long phone call, or you have to start a blog just for your goal and report on it every week.

1:57 PM  
Blogger marci and josh said...

You sound just like me, and since we live by by each other maybe we can motivate each other. I'm not sure if your goal is the same as mine, but from the sound of your blog it is at least similar. Talk to ya later.

3:23 PM  
Blogger jacksonx03 said...

This is so true! I think sharing the same goal that someone else has and then checking up on each other helps. I know when I am serious about something I also schedule everything out and keep notes and lists; it seems to help keep you on track because you already wrote out what exactly you are going to do and if you detour than you have all that guilt, so it's easier just to stay on track. And then like I said before if someone has that same goal check daily or regularly with one another. Oh, in fact as I type this I have a great thought that just popped into my head. This might seem crazy but I am excited to test it out. My old neighbor and her sister have been teaching the 12 step addiction recovery program for years and years in the church and in fact just met with the General YW board of the church about what they have done and learned. They just started a blog and I have spoken with them about it, but the great thing is they say this program is the best for ANYTHING! Not just "addiction recovery" but any goal you have. They just started the blog

and I am going to start reading into it and giving it a try. If you want to experiment together let me know! Sorry for writing soooo much!

Amy J.

7:14 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

Have you considered pats on the back?

5:36 PM  
Blogger Erik Kokkonen said...

If you were a masochist, you could turn it around and punish yourself for NOT doing it...

4:37 AM  
Blogger Talyn said...

I considered paying Erik a dollar each time I messed up, but then he called it masochistic so never mind.

10:02 AM  

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