How to get a child or a student do tasks they don’t want to or are too lazy to do? Why should we make them do it – we could just do it ourselves instead, couldn’t we? No, because if we take care of the task for them, they won’t learn anything from it. And if they do it, how should we reward and praise them in moderation? And if they don’t do it, should we punish them, does it make sense? Our PE teacher tries to answer all these questions. Written by Sándor Rábel.

Education for independence

As with almost all pedagogical issues, we’ll be faced with the problem of „optimal load” in case of education for independence. This means that it will be difficult to determine how independently we should let the child act in specific situations, how much we should entrust them with the given task.
Therefore, it’s important to state and remember that a child is capable of doing much more than they assume or are comfortable with. Basically, you need to squeeze out the performance!

Anything that a student could do but we do instead is a wasted opportunity to increase their analytical, emotional and action intelligence!


A child isn’t helpless, they just enjoy pretending they are, and adults often believe it. You often encounter situations where you can challenge a student. Go for it! Adults tend to routinely do tasks mainly involving research and basic organization instead of students. But you shouldn’t! After considering the difficulty of a task and the student’s analytical, emotional and action intelligence, make them take care of the task they expect us to do as often as possible! It’s OK to help, of course. Never forget that they’re capable of more than they show! And after completing the task, even if they won’t admit it, they’ll feel good. Very often, the key to happiness is the energy you invest and pushing past your limits.
The aforementioned thoughts do not mean that you should overburden the child,

but that they should be accustomed to acting at their own level as soon as possible!

Punishment and reward as motivational tools


Is it OK to punish?

As discussed in an earlier part of the series, extremely liberal educational principles are gaining ground. One such principle is that, regardless of the situation, a child should never be punished.

While the concept of punishment can ba defined, its short-term and long-term effects cannot be objectively measured, nor can it be determined exactly what’s in the student’s mind, whether their personality changes in a positive or negative way.

Additionally, there’s one very important point to be made, which, however, requires introduction to the steps leading up to moral conviction.

Moral conviction is the most stable form of action. This means that moral conviction will very likely lead to the same decision under almost any circumstance. For example, if my moral conviction is that being late and making others wait for me is disrespectful (barring vis major), I’ll never be late from any meeting, be it business or simply having ice cream with my friend.

If it’s „only” moral habit (one level below moral conviction) that keeps me from being late from somewhere, it means that I arrive on time because I’m worried about the consequences of being late. To put it bluntly: I’m afraid of punishment. Timeliness for someone who’s late for ice cream but arrives to a trial on time is only due to moral habit, not moral conviction, because they know that their friend won’t punish them. (Just wait for them.)

The lowest level is moral awareness. It simply means that you understand the etiquette in question. It’s not OK to be late, on the bus you should give up your seat to the elderly, you should knock before you enter a room, you shouldn’t walk between two persons talking to each other, and so on. Moral awareness is a set of rules you’re taught or learn yourself, and, depending on the development of your personality and your value system, these rules are applied at the level of moral conviction or moral habit. (Occasionally, not applying a rule of etiquette can also be moral conviction, but that’s another topic.)

So the process is as follows:

1. A child learns a particular rule of etiquette. (Moral awareness.)
2. The child applies the rule either because they’re obedient or because they’re afraid of the consequences. (Moral habit.)
3. The child (but most often an adult at this point) applies the rule because they’re convinced that it’s the right thing to do. (Moral conviction.)

The important thing I wanted to mention is that in the vast majority of cases, a child needs to experience the second stage multiple times before moving to the third stage! It’s very rare for a student to learn a rule of etiquette and fully integrate it into their personality right away. So, moral conviction is the result of practice, and a child will never practice enough on their own! Remember what I mentioned in the chapter Education for independence: you need to squeeze out the performance!

So let’s ask the question again: Is it OK to punish?

In my opinion, after all other methods have been exhausted, punishment becomes necessary, unfortunately, because if you don’t do anything, the child gets stuck right at the first stage! And the goal is to get to the third one!

Not every student is obedient, and often there’s no time to act softly or experiment with different methods, as negative actions also have a detrimental effect on community morale. I think that

if it takes punishment to make a student act on the level of moral habit, it’s still better than letting them stay passive.

The nature and extent of punishment varies, of course, and there’s no general rule here either.

Undoubtedly, reward and praise are much nicer, calmer and more peaceful tools of motivation. These are tremendously important, primary tools!

A child raised without reward and praise will be anxious and lacking confidence!

The extent, of course, is important here too!


Excessive praise loses its value, while excessive rewards warp the child’s system of values and creates the internal view that nothing needs to be done without a reward. Thus, they develop a demanding attitude. Through continuously rewarding a student without performance requirements you make them develop a false image about how the world works and, when they leave the protective shell of education, they’ll face a different reality.

Determining what level of performance to reward or praise is very difficult. It depends on the age and personality of the child, the situation, and many other things.

Ready-to-use solutions aren’t available here either, but at the first sight of demanding attitude you would be right to suspect that you’ve been too rewarding, while in the case of a seemingly unjustified decline in enthusiasm, you could assume that praise has been neglected.

Typically, adolescents want to be adults, but as soon as you put them into real life, adult situations or entrust them with adult tasks, they immediately become uncomfortable. You need to steer them through the means of reward, praise, and sometimes, unfortunately, punishment, so that they eventually reach (or at least approach) moral action based on moral conviction.

Source of featured image:

Translation by Ádám Hittaller

15210cookie-checkEducation for independence, punishment and reward – Pedagogy 101, Part 3