Punishing some by rewarding others


Fairplay is very important to me and it annoys me when I see things that, in my mind, show a lack of fairness.

Recently my daughter was legitimately off school with illness. She had never really taken time off school before, so we knew that she was serious when she told us she was not well.

Anyway, she came home a few days later telling me she had homework. Nothing unusual about that. However, she then said that those who had 100% attendance didn’t get any homework as a reward for having 100% attendance.

To me, this seems a little unfair. It’s not like she is of the age where homework is being used to expand classwork or to catch up on things they have missed. To be brutally honest, the homework they get is utterly pointless 99% of the time! This is evidence by the fact that they can just drop it for some when they feel like it!

I get what they are trying to do. Encourage kids not to malinger by telling them they will get a free pass on homework for one week if they don’t miss a day of school. However, this reward for them becomes a punishment for those who have a legitimate reason to have missed school.

It is important that when you design a reward system that you consider the balance of the rewards. Does rewarding someone unfairly disadvantage or punish others? This isn’t about mollycoddling people or treating them like “little snowflakes” this is about being fair!

And relax…


A conversation I have just had with my daughter that perfectly proves how wrong this type of reward system in school is..

Me: Mummy is off out tomorrow.
Olivia: Take me with you.
Mummy: But you have school.
Olivia: I’m not getting my attendance award so what does that matter?

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3 thoughts on “Punishing some by rewarding others”

  1. The issue for me is very simple: the current reality is far from fair play, and the psychological principles of gamification.
    Especially educators and teachers should know and apply the concepts of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation in detail.

  2. The update is heartbreaking! Reminds me of the story were in a school a few parents picked up their children late, and the school decided to implement a policy by which they charged parents for the “extra” time that children spent on the school. It was meant to be a punishment for parents. However it monetized arriving late to pick up children and assigned straight value, and made it acceptable if you paid the corresponding price. The result was… more parents started to arrive late! They decided that spending an extra hour with a client might bring more income comparing to the monetary loss of paying the punishment! They tried to cut back and removed the monetary punishment, but the results where even worse as they made it a free ride to arrive late… Rewards and punishments (unrewards or the like) have to be well thought out!


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