After 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?
I am kind of caught in this limbo and I'm not quite sure what to do about it. He's got a huge mind of his own.
Most of the time, he's great about doing things on his own. If its something he can do on his own, then he's all game.
But there are times he needs a hand getting the hang of it. Like, if he's been having bad behavior at school.....I'll give him a sticker chart with a big surprise at the end if he really works hard on being good. But I dont' just leave it at that. I tell him why its so super duper important that he doesnt' talk in class, etc. I make sure that gets in there :).
Nope. I don't bribe. In terms of chores I explain that we're all members of this family, we all live here & we all need to help make this a nice place to live. With regard to school they understand that school is essentially their job and they need to do their best. If they intentionally don't do what is expected there are consequences. We do praise their good work/effort & they have lots of opportunities for fun - it just isn't tied to doing what is expected of them.
by chinosrucaJanuary 19 at 11:26 AMI have been known to offer a bribe from time to time. Nothing big and not always. ....but, it works. I get what I want and they get what they want. My mom did the same with me and I am not sone traumatized brat who expects rewards at every turn. My kids are both pretty well behaved so I don't really have to bribe for behavior.
I wouldn't call it bribing but I do offer incentives for them. I do not do this for everything. I do expect my kids to obey because they need to. However I like to reward them for doing something over and above what is expected. They know that there is a chance for reward and it does motivate.
by LucyHarperJanuary 19 at 3:17 PM
We don't bribe our kids. I think bribing them just teaches them to do things because they get something in return, not because they should do those things, it sends a bad messege. I want my children to listen to me and do as I say because they understand why I am telling them to do something. I want them to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, not because they get something out of it. If kids are bribed into doing things, they will only help in the future if they are getting something out of it, it makes selfish adults.
by tdoubleday04January 19 at 5:37 PM
It isn't bribing....Positive Negotiations :)
I sure do. I use every trick that I have at my disposal. Sometimes that is bribing, sometimes that is encouraging words, and other times that is punishment. I don't see any one form of motivating your kids as "bad" or "good", you need to use a variety of methods depending on the given situation and the child in question. Parenting isn't one size fits all.
I avoid bribery - promising rewards for things that they should do anyway. I think it's more important for them to develop their own sense of persistence and responsibility. But I do sometimes set things up so that there are benefits to good behaviour that could be thought of as a bribe. So, for example, with my 5 yo DD we get up early enough in the morning that if she gets herself ready in reasonable time (doesn't drag her feet and or get sidetracked) then we have time to cuddle and read a book together for ~15 minutes before school. If she dawdles, she doen't get reading time. I don't nag her in the mornings, so she's learning how to manage her own time, and that if she gets her "work" done quickly, she has time for fun. To me, that's a good real-life lesson.
But I have to confess that the very early stages of potty training were hard, and I did start offering her mini-marshmallows as treats for using the potty. I think I would have done anything at that point!!!