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Bribing children might reinforce their bad behaviors, experts say
Bribe
Goldsmith says parents don't have to give their children money if they want to incentivize good behavior. He recommends parents create a point system, where kids can earn points for doing something good, like doing their chores or homework without asking. If a child earns enough points, they can earn something special, like an outing or another prize. - photo by istockphoto.com

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Is it ever acceptable to bribe your child?

When it comes to “bribing” children, child care counselors seem divided on the matter. Ingrid Higgins, a marriage and family therapist at Campbell Teen and Family Therapy in Campbell, California, was recently quoted as saying financial rewards for children are not a good idea. She said, “Good behavior is expected in a household and not something you get paid for.”

Other counselors, however, would define the word “bribe” in a different way. The Children’s Center Executive Director, Dr. Douglas Goldsmith, believes “bribing” a child means you pay them to do something they shouldn’t be doing, like keeping secrets or telling lies.

However, he adds that compensation for good behavior happens in the adult world all the time. When we perform well at work, we get rewarded with a paycheck.

That’s not to say children need to be paid for everything they do, but, some counselors say it’s important to differentiate reinforcing good behavior and giving in to bad behavior.

Goldsmith says, “The reward follows the behavior we want. I think that’s a really important concept for parents to understand.”

Goldsmith says parents don’t have to give their children money if they want to incentivize good behavior. He recommends parents create a point system, where kids can earn points for doing something good, like doing their chores or homework without asking. If a child earns enough points, they can earn something special, like an outing or another prize.

“We’re reinforcing good behavior and we know through numerous research experiments that by reinforcing good behavior we’re more likely to get good behavior in the future,” Goldsmith says.

In many cases, Goldsmith adds, parents don’t need to spend a dime to help their child improve behavior.

He says, “That verbal praise is more important to kids than being able to go to the dollar store and picking out a prize.”

However, if a parent bribes a child to stop their bad behavior, Goldsmith says it’s especially bad.

He says, “If the child is having a tantrum, and I say to the child, ‘If you stop this tantrum right now, I’ll take you to get an ice cream cone,’ that is not helpful. We just rewarded the tantrum.”