• Ian Gibbs

Student Tip 13: Trick or Treat?


I’m sure you’re already very familiar with prizes and punishments at school—especially the punishments.


But the reason why your teachers dish them out is because they can be terribly effective when used in the right way.


The only problem is you probably have your doubts about whether they really are being used in the right way.


After all, you are the best person to decide whether a prize or punishment is going to really help you do what you should be doing, aren’t you?


You know exactly what those little things are you enjoy or hate.


You know exactly what works with you and what doesn’t.


So here’s another question to think about: The next time you should be sitting down to study but you don’t really feel like it, what can you do to help get yourself motivated?


What prize or punishment could you use?


Examples of what other students use are...


• Thinking of how relieved you’ll feel once you’ve done it

• Giving yourself a chocolate when it’s finished

• Promising your mum you’ll do the dishes/empty the bin/hoover the house if you don’t do your homework

• Not using social media until it’s done

• Thinking of the satisfaction that getting it out of the way will produce

• Thinking of the pain/embarrassment/stress that not doing it will produce

• Not doing your favourite activity until it’s done

• Giving yourself a homework point for doing it*

• Celebrating with your favourite drink and your favourite food while listening to your favourite music

• Get your dad to hide your phone until your assignment is done

• Get your family to give you a round of applause for finishing it


The reward (or punishment) doesn’t have to be big, it just needs to be big enough to work.


It doesn’t even have to be for finishing. It could be a reward for sitting down and starting.


Simply listening to your favourite music (without lyrics, remember?) while you study is one example of this. I like to sit down and start studying with a nice cup of tea, but that’s just me.


In Student Tip 7, you read about the importance of studying in the right place.


If it is ‘rewarding’ just to sit down there, all the better. If it feels comfy, good.


If the background noise is pleasant, fine.


Even the right smell can influence your attitude.


These little details are all little rewards in themselves.


So the next time you’re struggling to start your study session, try using one of your own prizes or punishments to help you sit down and get started.


If you can make this into a regular habit, you should find getting started becomes easier and your grades start steadily rising.


With better grades comes more confidence, more self-esteem and a better feeling about yourself altogether.


And that’s one of the best rewards there is, isn’t it?


Tip 13: Use a prize or punishment to help increase your motivation.



* I know students who have created their own points system. They award themselves a point for doing whatever-it-is-they-want-to-do. They collect them, adding them up day by day. When they get to a certain number of points (10, 50, 2000), they reward themselves by treating themselves to a luxury bath, a favourite meal or a new farmhouse in France.


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