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Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise and Other Bribes
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Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise and Other Bribes

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  3,062 ratings  ·  328 reviews
The basic strategy we use for raising children, teaching students, and managing workers can be summarized in six words: Do this and you'll get that. We dangle goodies (from candy bars to sales commissions) in front of people in much the same way we train the family pet. Drawing on a wealth of psychological research, Alfie Kohn points the way to a more successful strategy b ...more
Paperback, 430 pages
Published January 1st 1993 by Mariner Books
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Average rating 4.15  · 
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 ·  3,062 ratings  ·  328 reviews


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Start your review of Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise and Other Bribes
Karin
My daughter's gr. 1 teacher just announced that if the kids read 100 books, they'd get a reward. Instead of being enthusiastic, or eager to read, DD just got upset and worried that now she can't get the reward because 100 seemed way too many. How different is 100 from a bazillion to a gr. 1 kid who barely knows how to count that high?

Reading this book helped me to understand that frustration, and non-interest is a normal reaction to bribery. Kohn states that kids and adults alike see both rewa
...more
Sharlee
Mar 13, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: teachers, parents, any person in a management position
Recommended to Sharlee by: College peers/professors
As a college student, I had been very interested in Alfie Kohn's philosophies. After graduating and getting a job much sooner than expected, I decided to read this book. I am amazed by how much we control other people with rewards. I've never been a fan of behaviorism...in any form. Which doesn't make me widely popular as a teacher. My students were stunned when I took over and explained that I do not give treats for asking questions or learning. I also explained to them that they are not dogs a ...more
Lisa Delaine Youngblood
Nov 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I have never read a book that so questioned societal norms, nor have I ever altered my views so much based on the concepts introduced in a book. The title of this book explains exactly what readers can expect. As with any book discussing parenting skills, work levels, and manipulation, readers will have to determine for themselves whether or not they can agree, disagree, or at least rethink their previous opinions. This book requires readers to look closely at the heart of motivations -- both in ...more
Elizabeth  Fuller
Aug 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
A lot of what the author says - that the use of rewards as motivators (for children, students, employees, etc.) is not only ineffective, but often detrimental to morale and motivation - makes a lot of sense, and certainly represents a fresh perspective. Despite this, however, I couldn't shake a lingering feeling of disagreement. Not that I don't believe his arguments...but I also don't think he leaves enough room for individual difference. For example, while I do agree with him that intrinsic mo ...more
David
Sep 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: parents, teachers, supervisors
Shelves: psychology
What a great book! I have long been bothered by the question, "How do you motivate people?" And the answer is here--you cannot motivate people with extrinsic rewards. You can only set up situations so that the motivation comes from within, intrinsically. You must do this by giving the person control over decisions, over his life. Incentives, rewards, grades, and punishments remove personal control; they work in the short term, but when the incentives are stopped, the desired behavior stops also. ...more
Jurgen Appelo
Rock-solid research offered with cheeky humor. Required reading for every manager, teacher, and parent.
Jennifer
Oct 02, 2014 rated it liked it
The overarching premise of this book is that rewarding people can actually decrease the desired behavior. When people are manipulated by "if you do [x], then you get [y]" type rewards, the extrinsic motivator (the reward) starts to replace any intrinsic motivation the person might have towards the task and are much less likely to continue the behavior if/when the rewards stop. One quote that stuck out to me was that programs like "Book It!" (Pizza Hut) only serve to produce fat kids who hate rea ...more
Beth A.
Apr 19, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommended to Beth A. by: Laura Dotson
Shelves: parenting, nonfiction
I love parenting books, and I love exploring different ideas on how to parent , but this one was more difficult for me. The first few chapters are based on the assumption that no one human has the right to control another person. The idea is abhorrent to Kohn. This may be true in the workplace, but for parenting and to a lesser degree schooling, there are times when even the most lenient parent must have some control. You can’t exactly reason with a two year old that running in the street isn’t ...more
Marshall
May 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Parents, Teachers, Managers
Recommended to Marshall by: Joanie
I didn't give this book a 5 for fantastic writing. Although, Kohn is funny and insightful at times but he is also kind of repetitive (if you only read the first 5 chapters you'd learn everything you needed to know about the problem with rewards). The ideas in this book rang true to me as I read them. For example, achieving short-term compliance from my kids by offering them rewards (go get ready for bed without a fight and I'll read you stories until 7:30) is not only manipulative and selfish mo ...more
Beth Williams
Jan 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book blew me away. It has made me rethink so many things I've come to accept as just "the way things are" and realize the Skinnerian world in which we were all raised. "Do this, and you get that" is such a given and such an easy quick fix to the way we obtain compliance as teachers, parents, or employers. But does it really work? and if so, for how long? and at what cost?

I am grateful to have read this book while my children are still young and I have a chance to make some choices about how
...more
Brittney DeFriez
Mar 25, 2011 rated it liked it
To sum it up, this book is how we are slaves and make each other slaves to rewards when, if fact rewards are actaully shown to decrease intrinsic motivation. Case studies showed children who were given a reward if they played with certain toys and then, once that reward was taken, the children were turned off to that toy. When I read it, I loved it. It seemed inspired and appealed to my soft spot for rebellion. I felt that the this might what was wring with public education.

Now, that I am finish
...more
Rich Yavorsky
Dec 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
'Punished' is mandatory reading for parents, teachers and managers. I came into this title after a brief reference in Non-Violent Communication to learn more about my oldest daughter as she enters elementary school. I unpacked as much if not more about my own upbringing and its contributions to my own mental makeup.

In a nutshell, "we've all been Skinner-boxed":
(1) our "do this and you will get that" societal structures promote conformity not autonomy,
(2) rewards maintain this societal structure
...more
Eric Omine
Jun 25, 2020 rated it did not like it
I will ask you this: have you even read the works of Skinner et al before reading a book that bashes it?

This piece comes literally from the abstract of Skinner's essay "What is wrong with daily life in the Western world?":
"Five cultural practices have eroded the contingencies of reinforcement under which the human species evolved by promoting the pleasing effects of the consequences of behavior at the expense of the strengthening effects."


Skinner is pretty much saying that rewards are not reinfo
...more
Clint
Jun 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
A great book. The book is written for two audiences, educators and business professionals. I only had to read the sections that pertained to education, but after reading them, I am curious to know if the business world is like the education world. I will not praise Alfie for writing a well informed book, but simply acknowledge that it is. Teaching second grade, I can already see in 7yr olds how praise, rewards, and other behavior manipulators have altered there perspective of life. The "whats in ...more
Sherry (sethurner)
It has been a while since I read Alfie Kohn's book. I heard him speak at a teachers' convention and was intrigued by his assertion that teachers and parents kill children's motivation by offering rewards/bribes. So, candy, stickers, certificates, cash and other incentives really don't motivate! It went along with my casual observation that students to whom I sent commendations soon lost their commendabe behaviors, and it went along with a university class I took in the 80's about motivational th ...more
Megan Cooper
Jul 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
A must read for parents, teachers, bosses. A little alarming, and left me wondering what to do in lieu of all the praises and rewards (although Mindset, as I recall, does offer both solutions and food for thought on how to just give useful feedback, and what that is). Well-researched, articulate; those who disagree would need to provide a lot of evidence to dispute the many findings that support the cautions in this book. And an afterward talks specifically about Accelerated Reader, something I' ...more
Nurlan Imangaliyev
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you are a teacher, parent or a manager, please read this book before it's too late.
If you've read such books as Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck or Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink, then you'll find many familiar ideas and statements in this book, which will make you want to skip certain parts of it.
...more
Bjoern Rochel
Sep 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: eng-mgmt, 2019
+ lots and lots conclusive research on the negative effects of rewards and praise
+ not limited to the workplace, but also patenting and school
+ connects nicely with the works of Frederick Herzberg (2-Factor theory), Daniel Pink (Autonomy, Mastery & Pupose), David Rock (SCARF) and other newer management books, such as Jurgen Appelos (Mgmt 3.0, Mgmt Workout). Maybe even Spiral Dynamics (Laloux)

- definitely could be shorter
- for someone who has read or knows about the somewhat connected works abo
...more
Reemda
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Super interesting book! The viewpoints presented are not very compatible with much of what I believed before reading it, so there were quite some revelations in there.
One or two things put me off a little - for example the author's #1 goal in childraising seems to be to make the child caring and altruistic. For me, that's more of an afterthought, so I would've preferred a focus on other things. Still, the same principles apply for all other values, so I don't mind it too much.
Amy
Mar 05, 2017 rated it liked it
For a 24 year old book, Punished by Rewards remains relevant and thought-provoking. That said, it does suffer being read so long after publication when the related science has advanced so much. My rating here is heavily influenced by the fact that this is an older science book, not any deficiencies in the book itself.
M.J. Lau
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Every teacher should read this book--if this doesn't change your perspective on classroom management, you might want to seek an alternate line of work.
RandomScholar
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a hard pill to swallow for people who have been using positive reinforcement since the beginning of time, but it is a pill that we must swallow if we hope to improve education at all.
Kate
Apr 13, 2013 rated it liked it
this book is so great in the one main thing it set out to do, which is to point out 1) how totally saturated our culture is in giving people rewards to act the way you want them to (behavioralism, a notion/technique popularized by BF Skinner but around for ages), and 2) to point out all the subsequent research showing how giving rewards for a task/attitude/behavior kills the positive relationship between the doer and the deed. If you start paying kids to play their favorite game, they lose inter ...more
Alok
Apr 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I am a firm believer that the work obeys classical economics to first order. I personally take great enjoyment in maximising the value I receive from things. But I realise now that the reason I like to do it is because I enjoy the optimisation process and solving puzzles - often the benefit from the optimisation comes as a bit of a bonus.

The central idea is that rewards decrease intrinsic motivation, reduce enjoyment of the thing itself. Since reading the book, I have stopped rewarding my kids f
...more
Arlene S
(1993) Thought provoking, cogent, and convincing -- with an undercurrent (or undertow !) of democratic socialism. (His "anti-rewards" ideas-- may be good in theory, but likely this is one of the cases where theories are tricky to put into practice. He gives few if any alternative viable solutions.) Critics challenge the depth of Kohn's literature review and note the selectivity of his research examples, skewing toward negative outcomes for rewards, and see great philosophical bias displayed. As ...more
Stone
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
Why (inappropriate) rewards are bad?
- Make you feel being controlled and enforced
- Can influence interpersonal relationships in a negative way
- Hinder innovations
- Distract you from the intrinsic values of your work itself
- Gradually kill your interest in works you'd otherwise enjoy without rewards

What should be taken notice of when rewarding people?
- Try not make it known to the person prior to the completion of the work
- Don't make the reward look too expansive or too hard to achieve
- Make the
...more
Deborah
Jan 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: educators, managers, parents
As a self-motivated person who takes pride in a job well done, I've always felt that incentives at school and in the workplace served to undermine the value of my personal achievements. Due to this perspective, Alfie Kohn's book resonated well with me; however there are some who feel that nothing is worth doing if it doesn't result in a $5 Starbucks card, a flimsy certificate, or some such trivial token. Such people will not like this book.

My one criticism of the book is that it begins to feel r
...more
Jen
May 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
Read for work, as we are in the process of tweaking the school-wide behavioral plan. This was recommended to me by my former coworker in another district. I am sorry to say I did not find it that helpful. The author strives to live in a world where kids love learning for the sake of learning. In this world we have no grades, and children have free flowing exchange of information with their peers. I have trouble imagining this world and don't really have time to dream about it. In my world an uns ...more
Corinne Campbell
Dec 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Every, teacher, parent, manager, politician, administrator should read this book.
T Scott Saponas
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Not just a book for parents.
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Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. The author of eleven books and scores of articles, he lectures at education conferences and universities as well as to parent groups and corporations.

Kohn's criticisms of competition and rewards have been widely discussed and debated, and he has been described in Time magazine as "perhaps the country's most outspoken
...more

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