As my sons get older, I find myself even more focused on how and what we praise. As a teacher, I became rather adamant about specific praise. I found that many children were used to hearing "good job" and even worse "good boy/girl" in reference to little to non-important tasks. When you give unspecific praise to menial tasks it makes people feel they need to be acknowledged for any and everything they do. It also takes away the value of praise.
When we praise the boys we try to use specific praise. "Thank you for listening to me", "I really liked the way you helped Colby", "Good choices", "good job pushing in your chair".... We praise behaviors that are new skills that we are trying to encourage and/or older skills that are slacking at the time.
We have never rewarded our sons for actions or learning. Ok we tried with the whole potty training thing, but it didn't help. We want the boys to learn that they should choose to do the right thing because it is the right thing. They need to choose to learn for the sake of learning.
Do I think parents who reward their children are wrong... no. Do I think that rewarding children for an exceptions is wrong, yes. You don't reward a 3 year old for walking, but you may want to reward them for behaving in the grocery store. Just as you wouldn't praise a 3 year old for playing with his toys, but you may praise him for cleaning up without a fuss.
I've always felt that empty praise is just as bad as an empty promise or empty threat. Neither has much value in the growth of a child. When you make empty promises/threats to children, they learn that they can not trust the words of adults. They learn that lies are ok. When you make empty praise they feel that their actions have less importance. They feel that there is do difference between the types of actions that occur.