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Do You Bribe Your Kids?
January 18, 2013 at 11:36 AM

Keep Bribing Your Kid to Be Good & You’ll Still Be Giving Out Gold Stars at College Graduation

Posted by Jacqueline Burt

rewards chart bribeAfter spending almost 12 years as a mom, I have come to the conclusion that nearly all parenting struggles boil down to one core problem: Kids have minds of their own. Who knew?! Thinking thoughts for themselves, exercising free will all over the place. Wanting things we don't want for them, doing the opposite of what we need them to do. The nerve of these ungrateful creatures!

Just kidding -- mostly. Obviously we gave birth to babies, not robots. We didn't have kids just to order them around. But the fact of the matter is, sometimes we really do need them to listen/behave/do as they're told, etc. Particularly in scenarios involving oncoming traffic ("I told you not to play near the street!"), possible infectious disease transfer ("Wash your hands!"), dental hygiene ("Brush! Now!"), education ("Time for homework!"), and so on and so forth.

But because they lack our perspective on such matters, kids often see no reason to comply, and because parents are desperate, we often resort to bribery. But guess what? Even if you think those dangling carrots are getting the job done, they're not. Study after study has shown that bribes simply don't work in the long-term -- take the reward away, and the desired behavior will go with it! Whaddya mean, no stickers?! What's in it for me?

So what are we supposed to do instead? Get down on our knees and beg them to clean their rooms? Stoop to using threats and punishment? Only if you want your kid to become either a spineless doormat or a rebel without a cause:

“Human beings have only two reactions to control,” said Daniel Pink, best-selling author of Drive, a review of over 40 years in research on what motivates human behavior. “They comply or they defy. I don’t think most parents want compliant children, and I don’t think they want defiant children. They want children who are active, engaged and motivated by deeper things.”

And who brush their teeth willingly, I might add. (At this rate I feel like I'll be calling my kids at college every night nagging them to brush and floss.) I don't know if such human beings can actually be raised up from the natural born dictators most children seem to be, but here are a few expert tips on how to get good behavior without bribing, begging, or bullying: 

1. Avoid using words like "should," "must," or "have to" -- these make kids feel like they're being pushed around.

2. Offer praise instead of rewards.

3. If you do give rewards, make them spontaneous and after the fact -- don't promise them ahead of time, wait until you "catch your kid being good."

4. Try to make things fun. Put dance music on when it's time for your kid to clean his room. Make a funny "thinking cap" to wear while doing homework. Whatever it takes.

Do you bribe your kids?


  • MichelleMc
    January 18, 2013 at 9:16 PM

    I do not. 

  • Janet
    by Janet
    January 18, 2013 at 10:13 PM
    I have but not often.
  • saltycoqui
    January 19, 2013 at 9:18 AM
    I give rewards, not bribes now. I was guilty of it on the past. Once I asked my son to do something and he asked what was he going to get. I said, my thanks and the knowledge and good feeling of a job well done. At first my kids were confused but now it's like, ok mom. No problem.
  • MamaMoopsie
    January 19, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    Heck no, we don't bribe...well, I don't. My DH has had to learn the hard way. When our now 9 year old was in Kindergarten she kept getting in trouble for talking when she needed to be working or listening. She would interrupt the teacher, distract her classmates, and it was so out of control. So DH promised her that if she went a day without getting in trouble for talking we'd take her out for ice cream. Sure enough she did. Then she did again, and again. Great! She was behaving. Well, one day I said no to the ice cream and the next day the talking started again. I told her she needed to be good because it made her a more pleasant person to be around, she shouldn't be rewarded for doing what is expected of her. It's been an ongoing battle, honestly. This year she is in 4th grade and her teacher started a rewards system of if they have all their work done during the week then Friday afternoons they get "Fun Friday" where they can play games, socialize, and participate in fun activities. Well, some of the students were behaving poorly during Fun Friday and so the teacher took it away from all the students and my daughter came home saying "Why should I even do my work?"

    Bribery is not the answer! Lead by example, reward truly excellent behavior, but randomly. When my 9 year old goes above and beyond in helping out at home or doing really well in school I give her a book. I'll go out and buy these books ahead of time (I usually try to buy the next few in a couple of series she likes). She doesn't get them all the time. For instance, one day I was really the point where when I moved it hurt so bad. I stay home with my three little ones. When my 9 year old got home from school and saw what bad shape I was in she took her three little sisters into the dining room, got my youngest into her high chair and the other two seated at the table. She got them all snacks then entertained them by coloring with them or playing pop-up with the baby. She had them "help" her with her chores, just to keep them from bothering me while I didn't feel good. It was so sweet of her, and I never asked her to do it. She got two books that time!

  • splatz
    by splatz
    January 19, 2013 at 12:58 PM
    I'm guilty of rewarding on occasion.
  • DixieFlower
    January 19, 2013 at 11:24 PM

    Not yet. However, I do plan to do as my mother did. We had a chart and for doing extra things around the house we'd get stars. My mom had a "store" that we used our stars to purchase things. We had the option of either doing those extra things or not.

  • Shaybay218
    January 20, 2013 at 12:44 AM

    Yes! I'm guilty! lol

  • zacmacsmomm
    January 20, 2013 at 5:43 PM

    Oh yea, I resorted to bribery a few times lol, it worked when it needed to, but was never something that was done constantly!  I am pretty much, "do it cause I say so" kinda mom lol  But yea, bribery has had it's place at times

  • Pessema
    by Pessema
    January 21, 2013 at 12:58 AM

    While what you are suggesting sounds good, from a psychological standpoint it isn't completely sound. Parents do need to use words like "have to" it establishes authority. Giving praise is good, but giving rewards even giving them often is not necessarily bad, as long as the scale is balanced on the discipline side. For proper psychological growth you use basic math. (to put it as simple as possible)

    For ev ery action there is an equal and opposite reaction is a phrase most should be familiar with. Very similar is how you should reward/ discipline children. we will use + for good & we will use - for bad. So f&- reward. For every -behavior there is a +&- discipline.

    for bad behavior you add a dislike &/or subtract a like.

    Example time: Lilly broke curfew.

    Lilly + additional chore - phone 

    for good behavior you add a like and/or subtract a dislike.

    Example time: Lilly cleaned the den & kitchen without being asked

    Lilly +tv time - chore for the day. 

  • jbirdsladie27
    January 21, 2013 at 8:24 AM
    Neither did we

    Quoting MistressMinerva:

    I never did it.

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