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May 24, 2014

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Book teaches parents to reward children

PSYCHOLOGIST Virginia Shiller said that when her son was young she would reward him for cleaning his teeth at night by giving him an animal sticker. By the time the child had collected a chart full of stickers, he had mastered the art of oral hygiene.

That story was just one of many shared by Shiller, wife of Nobel Prize for Economics winner Robert Shiller, at the launch of her book “Rewards for Kids” yesterday at Fudan University.

“Rewarding has proved to be very useful in correcting children’s behavior,” said Shiller, who has a private clinic in the United States.

Helping children to behave well is the number one challenge for most families, especially new parents who didn’t understand the needs of their offspring and often scold them when they do wrong, she said.

“As parents, we forget what it’s like to be a child,” Shiller said. “When parents are harsh, they face rejection from their children.”

In her book, Shiller suggests how parents can use stickers and other tools to help children improve their behavior.

The positive reinforcement technique is nothing new and has long been used to deal with children who don’t want to go to bed or do their chores, or struggle to get along with their siblings.

Shiller said her two sons used to fight a lot when they were 4 and 7, so she paid them US$5 to stop. The children could then use the money to buy toys and candy.

“We never gave large rewards. Sometimes a sticker is enough for a young child,” said Shiller.

Parents should try to get the behavior they want with the smallest reward possible.

As an economist, Robert Shiller wondered why one of his sons, who was in the first-grade at the time, didn’t want to go to school one morning.

It turned out that the 7-year-old thought he was a slow learner. His dad thought he might have a learning difficulty, even though the school said he was fine.

“My son thought he was stupid,” the father said.

To tackle the situation, the couple moved the boy to a special school that rewarded children for reading and spelling.

Shiller said she hopes to sell lots of copies of her book to Chinese parents, as she claims it might help them rethink their parenting technique to better deal with their children’s poor behavior.

“Despite the cultural differences between East and the West, I believe there is a way to help children build their strengths and gain the skills they need,” she said.


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