Learning Brings Its Own Rewards

Learning has an intrinsic value in and of itself without the need for extrinsic rewards!

no need for rewards

Children learn patterns of behaviour. If an adult treats a child as if they have an expectation that they won’t enjoy learning, it risks becoming a self fulfilling prophesy. The belief that children don’t learn without a sweetener, is perpetuated to the degree that some parents even pay their children for achieving particular grades in examinations. If a reward is expected, then children may endeavour to do what is necessary, and achieve it if possible, however it undermines their natural inclination and inbuilt wiring to learn. It may change learning into a chore, something they will not enjoy, giving learning a negative connotation.

“…when kids are encouraged to focus on getting better marks in school, three things tend to happen: They lose interest in the learning itself, they try to avoid tasks that are challenging, and they’re less likely to think deeply and critically.”Alfie Kohn, from Unconditional Parenting (p.79)

At school, grades or housepoints for good work may work as an extrinsic motivator to work harder at lessons. Similarly, a library reading scheme that seeks to make reading fun and novel (no pun intended) with the payment of certificates and/or other rewards for reading, looks at incentives rather than learning for it’s own sake. This undermines the value and the enjoyment of the learning itself, and is a shame.

Sadly, the rewards become the motivator. This is a common issue when young people leave school and enter higher education. They want to know what they need to know to pass examinations, trying to learn the information with the most value to their grades, rather than their own understanding of a topic and development which may ultimately be more beneficial.

Learning is wonderful and works on many levels

To move beyond extrinsic rewards is a challenge and requires trust in the inbuilt mechanisms in the child. In addition you also need to surround your child with the idea that learning is a wonderful thing that is of personal value and is possible in many different ways. Help them to identify methods which support their own unique needs, taking into account their individual strengths and weaknesses.

All people are different and complex and have such a variation in the ways that they learn, perhaps even learning different skills or ideas in different ways. The important message is that learners who want to learn can be successful, especially once they realise that there are a multitude of ways to learn the same thing. It is a matter of identifying the key to unlock that door of understanding.

Time to unlock learning?



Natalie has spent many years employed as a scientist. Since she committed to supporting her children's whole-life learning, Natalie has developed a strong interest (both general and personal) in how and why people learn and develop. This interest led to the creation of the site you’re currently on, “Learning, Always”.

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