Parents Parental Incentives

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Coach/Proud Parent
I'm going to cheat a bit and reserve my thoughts for later :p.

It would be nice to hear from parents, coaches, and gymnasts on the topic of incentives...where the incentive is made clear BEFORE the achievement.

Ex 1: "score a 36 this weekend & I'll buy you a new leo"
Ex 2: "get those giants unspotted in practice this week & you get that new cell phone you've wanted"

Of course it happens, but...

- do you feel that there is a place for parental incentives?
- is there a fundamental difference between the two examples?

Please share your thoughts & any experiences you've had, or witnessed.
Hmm Bluefeet, that is a good one.

Well I have a ten year old and a 7 year old in the gym. I also have a fourteen year old. I think it all began with one smartie for a pee and two smarties for a poo, somewhere around age 2!!!:D

Obviously there are all types of rewards and incentives in life, both for kids and adults. The questions is, I suppose, what are you rewarding.

I did give my eldest $5 once for not falling off beam at a comp, she said she'd never stay on, I bet her $5 that she would. Somehow She got the $5 and she stayed on.

My littlest got chocolate chips for her bar squat ons, that was fun and not a big deal.

At comps, if they have not placed, they have been bought a leo. That made the ride home more fun.

I have always believed in rewarding posistive behaviour, but mostly with praise. When I get to gym and the coach or my dd calls me over to show me something cool, I always find something to say about the nice straight arms or tight legs.

I know that it is not really worth a "bribe" to get a skill, internal motivation and fear are huge components of gymnastics, some things just have to be repeated a thousand times before they stick. So right now I praise the effort and say the new skill will come, when it comes.

After watching my oldest struggle with the dreaded kip, I realised that this is gymnastics, you get a major skill and there is always another one waitng for you. Like climbing a mountain, you think you are at the top, then you see the next peak.

All that to say, parents should try not to motivate their kids in the gym by external means, shopping, treats etc. It's not fair for the coach and the gymnast. Coach's have a tough enough job without parents manipulating from behind the scenes.

With my oldest gymnast this year we worked on personal goal setting after a horrible first meet. The goals do not involve scores, medals or placements, they are all about what she wants to happen within the realm of her control. It has been the most positive thing we have ever worked on. No more bad meets as some of the goals are always acheived, and new ones created for next time. It has shown her that she has the power to make herself proud regardless of what the judges say.

On another gym site there was a story of a mom at one meet who threatened to cut the head sof her young daughters beany babies if she didn't do well at the comp. Who wants to end up like that, slippery slope from a cell phone, to outright threats and manipulations.

Just my thoughts, you don't have to share them:p
I think this is a bad idea. Bascially, you're saying to your kid "I want you do accomplish X," and I think, no matter how you phrase it, it implies that if they fall short, you will be dissappointed in them. I think making a kid feel like their parents are dissappointed in them is one of the most destructive things you can possibly do.

The parents' job, as far as gymnastics goes, is to be unconditionally supportive and encouraging. The coaches are the ones who should be providing goals and incentives.
I generally reward gymnastics with praise as well, but there are certain times that I will "surprise" my kids after having a great day or getting something they worked hard for with a special treat. For instance when my dd got her press handstand I remember we went out for a great big strawberry sundae - her fave :) of course her brothers benefited as well:D .

But my weakness has always been dance recitals... she has had 3 in her short, little 5 year old life (her 4th will be in june) as well as performances in the nutcracker and peter pan and I got her a gift after her 1st performance, but the 2nd she had expected it and now she actually tells me in advance what she wants for each dance. I always tell her she has to do well, but no matter what she always does "great"... so good or bad, right or wrong I created that monster, she does not do it FOR the treats she really does love it, but she does look forward... I still believe strongly in positive acknowledgement/reinforcement and always reward my kids in that sense for school, gym, dance, baseball, fball etc...
After watching my oldest struggle with the dreaded kip, I realised that this is gymnastics, you get a major skill and there is always another one waitng for you. Like climbing a mountain, you think you are at the top, then you see the next peak.

Oh how true is this! I am just starting to realize it. I will admit to promising my DD a leo when she got her front hip circle. I can't promise that I won't offer something for the kip, but for now we are just working on trying hard in practice and not goofing off too much so that she gets all her Level 4 stuff. The gym itself incentivizes by using charts and putting up stars when the girls get certain skills. I'm not sure promising an ice cream for a good practice is all that harmful, but I do agree that, in the main, praise should be the main reward you give.

I think incentives are okay, but I can't afford rewards like that frequently. I've always approached it from the angle of "imagine how proud you'll be of yourself when you finally accomplish your skill!" I think that's what's most important. Of course, "I'll treat you to a mom/daughter evening out for icecream" isn't too painful on the pocket book and I know my daughter would enjoy it more. :)
I think incentives are okay for some things, however they must learn that sometimes the reward is simply the feeling of learning something new and being ablet to tell others that they can do it. My mom gave me some incentives over the years, a few dollars here and there if I finally got something that I had been working on for a while, or something along those lines.

I like to look at is to encourage the gymnasts to be excited about getting the skill--that is the reward of all the hard work. Sometimes it does take a little extra incentive to encourage the gymnast, but a little isn't bad at all.
I think its one thing to give small rewards for moving up a level or getting a skill the child has been working on for awhile. Thing is if you start giving something for everything they do, then where do you draw the line as they get older? We took my daughter out for ice cream when she got her kip(we felt so bad we didn't see her do her 1st!) and a family night out to eat when she moved up to Level 5, but thats about it.

There is a girl on the team who has her parents offer rewards for winning AAs at meets. She has mentioned to the team after one big meet last season that she wouldn't be getting a nice new cell phone(was 10 at the time) since she didn't win AA. To me, parents like this are saying to the child, you're only valuable when you win or winning is everything. Problem is nobody wins them all and then the kid feels like a failure and eventually quits the activity they were involved in.
Thanks to all of you for sharing! Sounds like I'm on the same page as most of you. I want to share with you what I've been thinking about doing with my daughter. She's 15 years old...pointing this out in the event that you think age might be a factor.

I'll try to spare you the long & not-so-interesting-to-others stories, and get to the point. After a bad injury, a short semi-retirement, subsequent all-time highs in confidence and abilities, she spent this past season competing at a level below her physical abilities.

She was 12, competing L7 at the time of her injury, ultimately sat out for more than a year, coming back last spring. She came back stronger than ever, acquiring surprisingly easily her L8 skills for this past season.

By fall she again picked up some the same monumental mental blocks she experienced after her injury. Specifically, tumbling...and it's driving her bonkers :(. The "next meet is L8!" never came this past year.

I'm the non-competitive passive type. I LOVE that she wants to stay in this any capacity. She's the type to beat herself up endlessly.

She's always been the emotional, stressed type sadly. She manages for the most part, but it pops up in her ability to focus in school, socially from time to time, etc. Gymnastics means the world to her. I'm trying desperately to do my part to keep it as enjoyable as possible.

To the point! ;) She's on a mission to get 'up to speed' this off-season. With an early state, we are already 2 full months into it. She's spinning her wheels, leaving increasingly frustrated more often than not.

That mental block stuff is just killer. I can see how much more frustrating it would be to KNOW you have the dang skill, but can't get yourself to do it...vs. the on-going struggles to gain a new skill.

Anyway, about all I can think of to help is to address her focus problems. Try to come up with a way for her not to self-destruct in practice.

What I'm thinking of doing is helping her map out a plan for the off-season. Something tangible, visible...with perhaps incentives to help keep her on the task at hand.

It's more than a "land that tsuk you get x$" thing. I want her to focus on the progression necessary to get the stuff back. Maybe x$'s for attempts in the pit...and then attempts spotted...unspotted...landed. Something like that.

I also don't want her to ever lose sight of how much she HAS accomplished. The whole 'quit beating yourself' up thing.

I want to create a document/poster board/whatever that highlights all of the skills she has conquered at each event. This display would also bring to focus the specific skill(s) she is working on this off-season. Maybe a place for her to 'ticky mark' each attempt in whatever form the progression calls for. It's more than just a skills chart, it's something that would require daily maintenance.

I don't know :(. I'm just hoping that given her personality type, having something in front of her, a place to document her progress, might help keep her focused on THAT skill. A way, regardless of how successful one event went in practice, to be able to move on to the next with a clean slate so to speak.

Maybe the modest monetary rewards tied to ticky marks might be a fun addition/motivation to break down her practice time to THAT task at hand.

I'm open to suggestions, thanks!
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I think incentives can work when the mood is positive. I'm less fond of them when dealing with a negative. I've seen a number of cases where a girl was hung up on a skill or set of skills. In no case did a threat, plead, or incentive help, and they've all been tried. To the contrary, each seems to show a sense of desperation, and add even more pressure.

The only thing I've seen that consistently works is relieving the pressure. Recently DD was hung up on something. Her head coach figured out the depth of the hang up, and the reason for it, long before I recognized the seriousness of it. The coach's solution was to back up and thereby take some pressure off.

Almost every skill is the end point of some progression of techniques. Sometimes the progression happens fast and sometimes with deliberation. Sometimes steps in the progression are glossed over or skipped. The coach's solution was to return to an earlier stage in the progression, to a stage where she WAS comfortable, and repeat some of the steps with special care taken to not rush through. Coach's point was to take off all time and performance pressure, and focus on good technique and on advancing even one small step every day. That allowed DD to develop a confidence in the technique that she didn't have the first time she learned it, and now it's a non-issue. She got to take the pressure off, relax, and learn it again.

She and I talked about some rather ambitious incentives, and all that did was stress her further, reinforcing and emphasizing that this was a "problem" skill. Now we reserve rather modest incentives for stuff that's brand new and that she's excited about learning anyway. It just adds an element of fun to the process, and it's something she'd get anyway for birthday or whatever. The greatest incentive for her is the approval of her coaches and the smile on her parents' faces, and the feeling of accomplishment, when she does it the first time.

Good point. Inadvertently reaffirming these as "problem skills" certainly wouldn't help.

Unfortunately her coach as at his wits end as well...and I can't afford a sports shrink ;).

I have taken her out of town for a few private lessons (at her request) - in hopes that maybe a new voice/environment might trigger something (which did help some).
Which skills are bothering her?

One more thing the coach did was talk to me and say essentially, "Don't worry, be happy." He said they saw what was happening, had a game plan for correcting it, that it might take some time because they'd go slow to do it right, but that they'd get it fixed in due time with no pressure. Best thing I could do is not stress over it, because then DD would be schlepping my frustration along with her own. So we went back to cheering every bit of progress and not paying that skill more or less attention than any other.

Reading between the lines, the coach had a very nice way of asking us to not exacerbate the problem. (Who, ME???? <G>) And he turned out to be right.
I thnk the whole reward, incentive idea is a bad one. You have no idea how often I hear "If you want that ice cream from DQ you'll get your kip today". Then at the end of practice, every day, you hear "Oh well, I guess you're not getting it today." Every time I hear it I want to tell the parent to just STOP, she'll get the kip when her little body is ready, she's NOT going to get it just because you're promising her something. I'm sorry, but it's true. It doesn't matter how much cajoling, or begging you do. She'll do it when she's ready.

If you want a reason why the numbers from level 5 to level 6 drop off so much, this is one of the big ones. The kids just can't do the stuff and the parents are getting so frustrated that they resort to begging their kids to do tricks that their bodies won't do and the kids get frustrated.

Just let them be, they'll get the trick when they get it, it's just that simple.

Right now my daughter is perfecting her free hip to hand stand, giant-giant, doubleback. She lands it on a sting matt in the pitt. You can bet your booty that I'm not offering her ice cream to land it perfectly on the floor. I want her to feel that SHE can land it before she even attempts it. Why would I want to push her to something that she's not ready for?? It's no different.
Sorry...busy with a new day job, including some traveling.

Thank you all for taking the time to reply.

I'm taking your advice & letting things play out. Working with the little ones now, my additional time at the gym has been fun for me and my daughter both. But at the same time I think it does add to her stress. With a greater visible presense, the thoughts of "pleasing" me is that last thing I want for her.

She and her coach had a nice chat last week. We've signed up for the AAU nationals in Knoxville in July...a fun get-away to help move the summer training along. God knows I have enough skills of my own to learn this summer ;)
I agree with some of the other comments about not giving one period. I don't think it's my place as a parent to give any? Maybe it works for others but I keep the gym and home life seperate as I can get it. Someone here said I think incentives are alright for some things, however they must learn that sometimes the reward is learning something new and being able to tell friends or family that they can do it!!
I think it depends on the child. Incentives in anyway do not work on my child. I remember even potty training she did it when she was good and ready. All the promises in the world could not get her to do it. To this day she does everything in her time. For a 7 year old I think she is pretty well rounded , she knows when she is too tired and when she is bored. I think this is good because then I cannot mess her up too bad when it comes to her gymnastics lol..
Even though we do not do incentives...I do reward her. When she made the team I bought her a new leo and shorts. If she has a great practice I praise her. I always try to find something good to say about how she did.
I think incentives can be appropriate if they're carefully limited. It's important for it to really be an incentive and not a bribe. For something to be an incentive, I think it's important for the child to be involved in setting the goal and making it reasonable.

I firmly believe goals should never be results orientated, i.e., place on beam; score 36 AA. Getting a skill is often not the best goal because it may be too big and is result orietated. If the child really wants the skill she needs to think about what she needs to do to achieve it. For instance, if she's struggling with the kip, and it appears that she needs more strength, maybe the coach could suggest some extra conditioning. Then the incentive could be provided for sticking to the conditioning plan.

Bottom line, kids do need to learn to be internally motivated, but most everyone relies on some balance of internal and external motivation. I thinking using incentives can help kids learn to do this. Even as adults, we can sometimes use such incentives to motivate ourselves. Like if I finish my project early, I'll take a day of from work to treat myself. Or if I stick to my exercise plan for a month, I'll buy myself a new dress.
I think using incentives is based on the age of your child and their personality. Going out for an ice cream cone when your 5yo has just done her 1st bhs is perfectly ok. As they get a little older they usually don't expect the rewards as much especially if the coach or teammates make a fuss over getting a new skill. Our gym still gives the team girls cards with the skill just accomplished on it, so they can bring them home to save, put on the fridge etc. This is the same card they give to all the rec kids, but it still seems to mean alot to the team kids also. I know my daughter has run back in to get a coach to fill one out when they forget.

Personally, I think a hug or " you had a great practice" goes farther than buying something. Now, my daughter is hard to praise---nothing is ever good enough. If I say, "wow---that full on floor looks so good", I'll get a list of reasons why it doesn't look so good. This past week, she was excited I was there to see her do giant-giant flyaways with a spot and her new tumbling pass of FHS-front layout-front tuck. Of course, after I say how impressed I am with this and all that, she says, well it was only done on tumble trak and not real floor, so it doesn't really count!! The sound of "thunk-thunk" is me hitting my head against the wall!!!!!

Personally I think it is wrong to use a physical action to reward. The reward should come later as a result of the individual being a good person and working hard on a consistent basis. Using rewards like a cell phone or a large cash amount is a bribe. Does the parent want the child to succeed as a gymnasts or so they can talk more about their child as a success:confused:
The long term benefit is from the journey and the little thing that happen along the way. We take those things with us through the rest of our lives! How we as individuals deal with success or failure, then learning to overcome because we desire it and are driven to it. Not that ribbon or trophy or because it makes someone else like us more or value us. Those thing fall into the past and collect dust.

Those little rewards like getting ice cream or going to the water park should be done as a reward for being you and sharing that time as a family or friends.
I see many things so enmeshed that many people can't separate, let alone function without some of those thing! It's a sad statement of our time!:confused:

As a coach , should I reward my students with money or prizes for a move? Competition is competition. It is to test us and create unity through the trials of learning and pushing our internal, personal limits;)
All of this is my personal feeling and I intend no offense to others:yes:
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