The Fine Line Between Rewarding & Bribing Your Child

These tips ensure they learn the value and purpose of positive reinforcement.

Human nature is such that we respond to positive reinforcement – that is, any form of positive reaction to something that we do. Some parents, though, disapprove of rewarding their child to encourage appropriate behaviour. In their view, this is simply bribery. A child shouldn’t have to be ‘paid’ in order to behave responsibly, they say.

However, there are other factors to consider. First, occasionally rewarding your child for good behaviour won’t do any harm. As long as the rewards are sporadic, your child won’t expect to receive one every time.

Second, there is a difference between promising your child a reward beforehand in order to persuade him to finish his homework on time, and giving him a reward afterwards because you are so pleased he completed his homework without complaint. The timing of the incentive is important.

Third, the term ‘bribe’ suggests a sinister underlying purpose for the action, when in reality, all you are trying to do is encourage more appropriate behaviour.

Rewards and incentives don’t have the same effect on your child every time. When using them, consider the following:

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Make it reasonable

The reward should be appropriate for the behaviour. Otherwise, your child will become confused. Buying him a new bicycle because he helped his younger sister in the morning wouldn’t make sense to him. Small rewards are often more effective than larger ones too.

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