Should You Bribe Your Kids?

By in Parenting on 19 September 2009

I can still remember how my parents used to bribe me with a treat if I’d wait patiently for them while they make their hospital rounds. As a parent, I am also guilty of bribing my daughter just to get her to follow what I want. When rushing for school, I tell her that if she can get herself dressed on time, I can take her to the park after classes. There are also other instances when I’m so frustrated that I’d end up bribing her with small things just to get her to obey.

Today, the bribing strategy is commonly used by parents in exchange of an ideal behavior. With many responsibilities at home and at work, sometimes some parents feel that it’s justifiable. Many parents can readily admit that they have used bribery several times so they can just save their sanity. But although bribery can bring about short term results, it may not teach kids the right behavior. When kids are used to being bribed, they may always expect something in return each time they are asked to do certain things.

It may also be difficult for them to appreciate that the things that you are asking them to do is for their very own good. If you bribe your child just so he’ll take his bath or brush his teeth, he may no longer feel that he has to do it for himself. And when you bribe your child so he’ll stop throwing a tantrum, you may find yourself in an unfortunate cycle of rewarding an improper behavior. While it is true that bribes can temporarily pacify a child, it is important for parents to remember that the act can only fuel his misbehavior.

Parents need to understand that there should be a clear distinction between offering bribes and rewarding kids for good behavior. There is definitely nothing wrong with treating your kids to their favorite fastfood joint when they behaved well at a social gathering. But when you tell them that they will get their favorite treat if they’d behave properly, you are conditioning them to expect something after they’d behave.

In place of bribes, try to bring out your child’s best behavior through open communication lines, and through a supportive and loving environment. Before punishing the act, learn more about the surrounding circumstances first. Kids are kids, and they still have a lot to learn through your guidance.  Set reasonable limits and enforce good behavior by setting the right example. Offer plenty of praises when necessary to encourage your kids to model the right behavior. These strategies may not immediately pacify your sometimes unreasonable child, but in raising kids, a little perseverance can definitely go a long way.

Being a parent, I know that the greatest challenge lies in knowing when and when not to offer rewards. A little incentive will never hurt especially when the situation calls for it, but when used inappropriately, kids may miss out on learning about respect and responsibility. These are after all valuable life lessons –far more important than any material things that they can ever possess.

2 Comments For This Post

  1. Dealing with this issue is a moving target – as are most things with the children. More than once I’ve wondered how to pull myself out of the “bribing trap” into which I’ve fallen. Would you believe my children sometimes bribe me? Yikes! Thanks for the ideas on how to steer us in a different direction. Wish me luck!

  2. Jane Heiza says:

    I also find myself in a similar situation. I am amazed at how smart they are in using our very own techniques to their advantage. I wish you all the best!


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