By buying into your child’s bad behavior, you are providing them with leverage for the next time they want something. At this point your child has your measure, and they know exactly the buttons to push that give them the results they want.
It’s useful to think of bribing children as essentially rewarding them for something they haven’t yet delivered. When comparing it to the adult world, it’s like an employer paying an employee to carry out work that they “might” do.
Examples of Bribing Children
- Mom and child at the supermarket, grocery shopping. Kid wants a treat, Mom says “no.” Kid starts crying/shouting/demanding. Mom responds “if I give you the treat will you be quiet?” – Kid gets treat.
- Child wants an ice-cream before dinner. Dad says “after dinner.” Child doesn’t accept this and demands the ice-cream “now”. Dad wants to finish cooking so he says “do you promise to eat your dinner if I give you an ice-cream?” – Kid gets ice-cream.
- Kid refuses to do chores unless he can play Play Station first. Parents relent and let him play Playstation hoping the chores will be finished later.
On the other hand, rewarding children (positive reinforcement) should be based on your child being rewarded AFTER they have met their obligations. You’re not “buying” behavior, but rather you are rewarding them for the behavior they have already delivered.
This is healthy for kid’s on many levels, but importantly it gives them the opportunity to learn a very valuable life-lesson. Delayed gratification!
Examples of Positively Rewarding Children
- “If you get ready for bed in the next five minutes, you can have an extra ten minutes of story-time.”
- “After you clean up your room, you can watch TV.”
- “Help me clean up the dinner plates, and you can choose what we’ll have for dinner tomorrow night.”
- And the all-time classic, often called “Grandma’s Rule” – “After you eat your dinner, you can have your dessert.”
Our kids aren’t our enemies and they should never be thought of as such, but they sure do know how to exploit our weaknesses. Replace this negative with a positive and give your children the opportunity to “do” before they “get”.