When Do Bribes Work?

If You Behave I’ll Give You a Candy.

Recently I read an article about running errands with kids. The premise was that you make it fun and comfortable for all. The author talked about preparing the children for the outing. Tell them where you are going and why. Let them know the expectations.

As I was reading this I was thinking about my grandchildren who are keen to follow the rules once they know what is expected of them.

Then the author ruined the article by talking about the bribe. Once you have explained this to the kids, the author continued, then offer a reward. If they manage to behave appropriately while you are running your errand they will receive a treat.

The article was ruined for me because it’s never a good idea to bribe a child for good behavior. Once they know the expectations, it is reasonable to expect that they will not let us down. And if our expectations are reasonable based on the age and ability of the child, odds are in our favour that we will have a good outing.

Not a Positive Tool

Bribes are not a positive parenting tool. They are actually about domination, manipulation and control.

When we bribe a child we are the dominant person in the relationship. We have the power to influence their behavior choice by offering a bribe. We use the bribe to manipulate the child to do whatever it is we want her to do. For the child the control over their behavior is external, it comes from us through the bribe instead of them simply learning to behave in an appropriate manner. We are saying, “If you behave I will give you a treat.”

Bribes give the message that whatever we want from our children is so difficult that the only way they can comply is if we offer the treat. A common bribe is dessert. If you eat your meal you will get dessert. What is the message? Is the meal so awful that the only way a child can choke down the food is to see the dessert at the end of the meal? Why not assume that your child will like their meal, that they will enjoy the main course? As a matter of fact, what if you decided that you don’t need to serve dessert at every meal?

Treats are something different. They are not expected. They are not a planned prize for decent behavior. They are simply special. You might go and run a number of errands and afterwards say that you’ve had such a successful morning it’s time to celebrate with ice cream cones. And that’s fun.

 Bribes Set Expectations

 There is another problem with bribes. A young child might be happy with a gummy bear but that won’t last. You need to constantly find a bribe that is big enough to entice the child.  This is true whether you are bribing a child for good behavior, for marks or for scoring goals in hockey. The bribes need to keep getting bigger.

Then there are the stars and stickers that some parents use to track all their children’s behaviors. There are stars for doing their chores, brushing their teeth, getting up in the morning and not fighting with their siblings. Maintaining these charts can become an onerous task and negotiating the reward that you attach to the stars as they accumulate is at minimum time consuming. If you fall down on the job of maintaining the charts, the required behavior will stop because they are only behaving to earn the reward.

They become unable to accomplish anything simply because it is the right thing to do or because it feels good.

Children who are bribed as a matter of routine become the adults who ask’ “what’s in it for me?”

It’s easy to fall into the trap of bribing our kids. There are certainly times when you will do whatever it takes to get through the shopping trip.  But bribes just aren’t the way to go.

Let your kids know what you need from them, and odds are they will be keen to cooperate.

Holiday Break

I am taking a break including unplugging and relaxing. So, the next scheduled newsletter will be on August 10, 2017. I’ll be cottage surfing visiting friends and family who have summer cottages in Ontario. The highlight will be when two of my grandchildren turn 5 and I’m there to enjoy the day with them.

Bring Kathy to your Community

Do you want to hear more? Kathy is always happy to come and speak in your community, at you event or as a workplace wellness presentation. On her website  you can find more information on her material.

My presentations will share a basic value that I call

P.U.R.E. Parenting.

P — is a parenting plan

U — is unconditional love

R — is respect for your child as he is right now

E — is encouragement

Digital Books Make Parenting Information More Accessible.

There are times when digital is the perfect answer and let’s face it, on a holiday having access to hundreds of books on one small tablet is ideal. I always have my kindle with me when I travel.

There are lots of times when a busy parent would like to be able to simply read and my books are digital and make it easier for you to take a look.

Two of my parenting books started as print versions but the third is only digital. The first two are also now in digital format. Who’s in Charge Anyway? talks about roots. It provides a clear road map for parent to focus on the tough but rewarding job of raising children to be responsible, self-disciplined adults.

But Nobody Told Me I’d Ever Have to Leave Home talks about raising children to become capable young men and women.

Download these books on to your devices and you will always have some interesting and helpful material to peruse.










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One Response to When Do Bribes Work?

  1. Lorraine Barner says:

    Thanks Kathy for your usual insight ! It is oh so easy to fall into the “bride trap” even with grandchildren. Have a great time in Ontario…! Say hi to the old stomping grounds . Hugs, Lorraine

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