It is always a common thing to find many parents struggling with the concept of rewarding and bribing children. In both cases, the child gets a treat of some kind for their good behaviour. So what’s the difference? Although it may seem like there is little difference between the two acts, there is a clear contrast between the two actions.
What Is Bribing?
Think about it. Think about a situation where you have bribed your child. Why and how did it happen? In most cases, you have to bribe when the child is misbehaving beyond your control. And in that desperate attempt to control the child, or to get them to act as they should, an incentive is offered in exchange for their good behaviour or co-operation. In this instance, the child has not done as they were told, or has misbehaved. As a result, they are offered a treat or an incentive to stop misbehaving.
So what does the child learn when this situation becomes a regularity? Rather quickly, the child learns that if they misbehave, the parent will negotiate with them in exchange for their co-operation. This means the child is more likely to misbehave, as they know this will start a negotiation whereby they can get a reward. Most of the time, they will have their way!
What Is Rewarding?
Now, compare this to rewarding a child for good behaviour. Rather than the child misbehaving and subsequently negotiating with the parent, the child displays good behaviour and receives a reward. There is a clear distinction. There has been no misbehaving, no tantrums and no defiance. The child has simply done what was asked of them, and has been rewarded with a surprise.
Rewarding children for good behaviour, particularly kind acts, or even when they have tried their best at a task will be very helpful for your child’s development. They learn that good behaviour and kind acts will be rewarded. In a situation of bribery, they learn to misbehave in order to negotiate a treat. There is a huge difference between the two, and avoiding situations of bribery with your children is vital.
So what about a pre-planned treat or reward. Let’s take an example – you plan to give your child a bath later that night. Knowing that your child doesn’t enjoy bath time, you offer a reward early in the day. If, when bath time comes, the child doesn’t misbehave, they can get an extra story before bedtime. When it is time for the bath, if the child behaves and goes quietly, they are rewarded for their good behaviour with the extra story. There has been no negotiation, and the child has never had control of the situation. If, however, the child starts to misbehave, they do not get their extra story before bed, and they certainly don’t get offered more rewards in an attempt to regain control.
In this instance, the offer has been made well in advance, and the terms are simple. Behave and be rewarded; misbehave and you will not be rewarded. This is the crucial difference. If you are in the habit of bribing your children, try and move to a reward system. It may take a few temper tantrums and meltdowns before you see the benefits, but don’t give up. It really is worth it.