To Bribe or Not to Bribe

I suppose it’s a little sensational to refer to it as a “bribe,” the trendy moniker is “positive reinforcement.” But, I know for a fact that the conversation can get pretty heated when parents debate and compare whether “bribing” is a valuable parenting technique or not.

I suppose a “bribe” can be anything from offering ice cream for good behavior at the library to paying a child for good grades. Of course, there are a million other ideas and opportunities for “persuasion” in between. I’ve read my share of parenting books and it seems no two books/experts/authors have the same opinion or advice when it comes to whether or not it is a good idea to offer our kids bribes in order to get them to do what we want them to.

From a practical, experienced stand-point, I confess that sometimes bribes really do work—or at least they have for me. I’ve definitely used the “we’ll have ice cream after we clean up this room” sort of bribe and not felt the slightest bit guilty about it. The fact is—I do the same thing with my self—bribe myself to get things done as in “if you spend the morning writing, then you can head to the book store for coffee and conversation in the afternoon.” I think that’s just good motivation and survival skills.

Where I try to draw the line is when it comes to things that my kids really need to learn to do for themselves—I don’t pay for grades or performance or behavior. I remember in my youth coaching days there were parents who paid their children to score goals or make baskets. That’s definitely not my personal philosophy or value system.

I’d be interested in hearing from some of our experienced parents here…what are your opinions of “bribing” and how does it fit into your parenting toolbox?

See Also: Just Say Yes and Do Your Actions Match Your Words?