Companies are spending millions to research what incentives motivate employees to give their best. Fitness and dieting gurus use scientific knowledge to keep people working toward their health goals. As a society, we tend to be more accepting and knowledgeable about the use of external motivators for adults than we are for children. The subject of rewarding children can be a confusing one.

Almost three decades ago, a book called Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn questioned the use of everything from gold stars and grades to praise, defining them as forms of bribery that would hypothetically diminish a person’s performance. Now the very idea of rewards for children can be tainted by the fear of bribery.

Bribes are rewards given spontaneously in reaction to a situation. A parent offers a child a cookie to stop throwing a tantrum in a store. The learning is simple: public tantrum equals cookie. This association can lead to behavioral extortion and all kinds of embarrassing situations.

Planned rewards, on the other hand, can effectively dissolve old habits and help children face challenges with courage. Rewards don’t have to be big. The right incentive can motivate a child to get ready quickly in the morning, enter a classroom without a fuss, or finish homework on time.

Motivators aren’t just for individuals. Siblings who are in the habit of fighting can be offered a reward for consistently working things out peacefully. The incentive brings them together toward a common goal. A family can work quickly to clean house in order to leave time in the day for an adventure. Classes sometimes put “gems” in a jar each time students cooperate or reach out to help each other. They have a party when the jar is full.

When children are already inspired, rewarding isn’t necessary and may discourage internal motivation. But when there isn’t motivation and the task feels hard, external incentives can get children going in a successful way until they build a new positive habit.

  • Meher School Community

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. As part of the school’s activities this month, the Equity and Inclusion Committee has prepared a diverse and engaging list of things families can do outside of school to support the AAPI community and celebrate AAPI heritage.

Created with a variety of ages and developmental levels in mind, the list includes book and song recommendations, family-friendly fields trips, restaurants, and events, equity-and-inclusion-based discussion topics, and delicious recipes – all centered around Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage.

Each week this month we’ll send a new set of activities from the committee’s list. You’ll find the first set below.

Book Recommendations: Week 1

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang Age range: Young adult to adult

Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore Age range: 5–8

Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen by Debbi Michiko Florence Age range: 8–11

Finding Mighty by Sheela Chari Age range: 10–12

Eyes that Kiss In the Corners by Joanna Ho Age range: 4–8

Songs to Explore: Week 1

“Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” – in Chinese, Japanese, Korean

Tadpole Song – Korean

Events and Recommended Field Trips: Week 1

Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St., San Francisco

Buddha Gate Buddhist Monastery, 3254 Gloria Terrace, Lafayette

Kevin’s Noodle House restaurant, 2034 No. Main St., Walnut Creek

Discussion Topic: Week 1

Addressing Anti-Asian Racism With Students (for parents), Smithsonian Learning Archives

Recipe, Week 1:

Sinigang (Filipino Pork Soup or Stew)

Note: This dish may be too spicy for children’s palates. Rather than slicing the jalapeños, it would be a good idea to use them whole the first time you make this tasty dish. You can always adjust the heat level when you make it again – which we think you will!


3 pounds diced pork spare ribs 1 thumb-size piece of ginger 1 large onion 1 large tomato 5 medium taro roots 1 large Chinese eggplant 3 jalapeño peppers 6 okra 1 bunch of spinach 2 bags of sinigang mix, preferably Knorr brand. It should say tamarind soup base mix. This mix is available at Seafood City in Concord, a Filipino grocery store. You can also buy it on Amazon.


  1. In a large, deep pot, add enough water to cover the pork.

  2. Set the stove on high. Reduce the heat to medium when it starts to boil, then cover the pot with a lid. Set a timer for 30 minutes.

  3. While this is boiling, peel the ginger and cut it into strips.

  4. Peel the onion and cut it into quarters.

  5. Dice the tomato into small cubes.

  6. Cut the jalapeño peppers in half

  7. After 30 minutes, remove the pork from the water and set it aside.

  8. Drain the water out of the pot (this is to remove the scum that will form).

  9. Put the pork back in the pot and add enough new water to cover it.

  10. Add the ginger, onion, and tomato to the water.

  11. Set the stove to high and bring water to a boil. After it starts to boil, reduce the heat to simmer, then cover the pot with a lid.

  12. Continue boiling until the meat is tender (about an hour). When you can pierce any piece of the pork easily with a fork, it is tender.

  13. While this is boiling, peel the taro roots. If any of the roots are large, cut them into smaller pieces. When peeling the taro, don’t wet the roots or it will release a slime that will make it difficult to hold. Cut the eggplant into slices and set them aside.

  14. Once the meat is tender, add the taro, eggplant, okra, jalapeño peppers, okra, and sinigang mix to the pot. Stir to ensure all ingredients are properly mixed.

  15. Continue to boil until the vegetables are tender.

  16. When the vegetables are tender, add the spinach. This wilts fast, so it should be added last to ensure it stays whole after serving.

  17. Enjoy!

We’ve been fortunate to see Indi Wibisono’s smiling face at The Meher Schools for 15 years, as one of our most experienced kindergarten teachers, an elementary aftercare teacher, and as part of the Breakfast Program team. Indi, who grew up in Indonesia, is truly dedicated to the school. When asked about her interests outside of her job, she says they still revolve around school. She loves art, for example, but says that “most of my artwork involves preparing students' work.” She likes seeing how her own art ideas are “transformed differently through children's eyes.”

One of Indi’s favorite things about the school is seeing the excitement in children when they discover something new. She says, “Although I’m not always able to keep up with their energy, I can relate to their energy and their excitement.” She also enjoys learning about their varied interests, “like horses, mushrooms, cats, and dinosaurs,” and seeing their different learning processes. She says that some students question everything they learn, others prefer tactile learning, and others are drawn to visuals. Indi does a great job adapting to each student’s learning style and helping them explore new ideas. She also has a wonderful time playing with the students. She explains how when she plays, “they think of me as a big kid, and they’re very serious about games and forget that I’m their teacher.”

Indi says the main lesson she hopes children will take from their time here “is knowing that they matter to us, that they can always come back and visit our school and will be welcomed as who they are.” She says that the school “works very hard to fit each unique personality into our community. Everyone is welcome and given a place to shine.”

We agree, Indi, and we appreciate you shining your light here for us every day. Thank you!