Why You Shouldn't Reward Children With Gifts

Written by Emi Boscamp

It's the classic parenting reward system: Your kid gets straight A's, you give her that toy or whatever it is she's been begging for.

Well, according to a recent study, such actions could be detrimental to your little one's development — causing her to be even more materialistic than an adult.

Researchers from the University of Missouri asked 701 adults how they were rewarded or punished as children for behavior and grades. They then compared that to how much the same adults associated material things with happiness and success. By doing this, they were measuring the effects of "material parenting, in which parents use material goods to express their love or to shape children's behavior."

The results suggest that those who were rewarded and spoiled as children were more likely to think possessions define who they are. In other words, they believe that material things indicate success.

Rather surprisingly, though, the gifts didn't make the children more likely than others to associate tangible possessions with happiness. So, according to the study, attaching a material reward to a positive action may teach kids to think of skills as a path to material wealth rather than to their own happiness.

This material attachment applies to punishment, too. Taking possessions away from kids when they do something wrong led them to be more insecure as adults, and that insecurity also caused them to associate material things with success.

So be cautious when rewarding your kids with tangible things. It could pave "the way for their children to grow up to be more likely than others to admire people with expensive possessions and judge success by the kinds of things people own," write the authors. Instead, give them warmth when they do something good. Maybe that way, they'll crave quality time with you instead of yet another gadget.

(h/t Quartz)

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