10 Reasons to Stop Using Candy to Motivate Students

Posted by Erica Warren on

Providing sweets to children to make them momentarily more compliant is a trick that teachers have used for ages.  In fact, fifteen years ago, when I started my private practice, I too can remember bribing challenging students to read lists of words or work through tedious drills.  But it was not long before I realized that this was the wrong tool to entice young learners.  In fact, loading youngsters with sugary sweets and empty calories proves to be detrimental in a number of ways. 
Image of candy.  It does not help with learning

10 Reasons to Stop Bribing Learners with Candy:

  1. Consuming candy is terrible for children's teeth.
  2. Sugar can also interrupt dopamine production when the brain gets accustomed to high levels of sugar, and dopamine has been linked in the research to both motor and motivational functions.
  3. Ingested sugar has the potential of destroying one's general health and immunity as it can strip the body of important vitamins and minerals. 
  4. Many children are addicted to sugar, and many insist on eating it instead of vital, nutritious diets.  http://eric.ed.gov/?q=sugars+impact+on+learning&id=EJ872852
  5. Eating too much sugar makes children vulnerable to the overgrowth of yeast, which can cause eczema, chronic nasal congestion, and ear infections. In addition, yeast overgrowth has been linked to sensory integration disorders and mental fogginess. 
  6. Sugar hinders the absorption of some B vitamins, and B vitamins help maintain optimal thinking, coordination, and memory.  http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/this-is-your-brain-on-sugar-ucla-233992 
  7. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that the average U.S. citizen consumes 156 pounds of added sugar every year.       
  8. Chronic consumption of added sugar dulls the brain’s mechanism for telling you to stop eating.   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12088740  
  9. Students that are offered extrinsic motivation or external incentives tend to select simpler tasks, and they generally offer minimal effort for maximum rewards.
  10. Rewards can devalue learning and counteract the development of intrinsic motivation (internal drive) and self-discipline.  

Happy kids reading

What Are Some Successful Ways to Motivate Learners?

  1. Make your educational approach fun.  Create games, creative projects, and engaging activities that have your students begging for more.
  2. Go multisensory.  Use a variety of materials and approaches that tap into the 12 ways of Learning
  3. Foster an environment that nurtures intrinsic motivation.  Making learning pleasurable by igniting students interest in the subject matter will motivate learners to select challenging tasks and learn information in greater depth. 
  4. Extend praise and positive feedback that is timely, sincere, and specific. 
  5. Offer healthy, nutritious snacks if you feel the need to use edible rewards.
  6. Present opportunities to earn points or tokens that can be exchanged for privileges if you want to move your student slowly away from tangible rewards.

Clearly, the secret lies in instilling intrinsic motivation in students as well as creating a positive, multisensory, and playful learning environment.  This can be done when teachers foster a cooperative, nurturing atmosphere where each student feels respected, valued, and empowered.   

Eclectic Teaching Approach and Inventory
I hope you enjoyed this post.  If you have any questions or thoughts, please leave a comment.

Cheers, Dr. Erica Warren
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator, and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning. She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Learning Specialist Courses.

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