Reward vs. Bribery
December 28, 2007 11:24am CST
In a moment of desperation a week ago, I called around for some help with my daughter. Being Oppositional, very strong willed and very independant, I often have a hard time getting her to do the simple daily necessities. I was advised to use a lot of rewards with her until I can speak with her psychiatrist in the new year. So the other night, when she refused to finish her chore of unloading the dishwasher, I told her that we would play a game once she was done. Then I looked at my hubby and said OMG! That Was A Bribe!! That concerns me a lot. I don't want to bribe my children!! So I'm doing a little research on this topic and found some interesting 'definitions' of the two words. Of course, with a lot of things on the internet, I'm getting conflicted definitions of a reward. A reward is defined as being offered ahead of time, before the child is asked to do something. A reward should reinforce good behaviour however the child is not cooperating for the final reward but more for an achivement. And then I find more information explaining that a reward is a reinforcement rewarding behaviour that has already been delivered. (now that makes more sense) A bribe is used to encourage a child to do something they have already refused to do. A bribe is used out of desperation, a contracted reward is planned. One thing that I agree with is that bribes usually come with a negative motivators. For example: Do the dishes and we'll play a game. If you don't do the dishes, you're going to bed. With a reward system, there wouldn't be the negative negotiation. If you don't do the dishes, we don't play the game... Period! To me it's all the same. Of course my mind doesn't stop there. I start to think about what this really teaches children. Don't do anything unless there is something good for yourself in the end? And make sure it's contracted beforehand to ensure it's validity? Yikes! But don't we adults already act like this? Do we really do anything without proper payment? And if we start a project and find out that we won't be properly rewarded in the end, do we not quit? Some of us will volunteer some time, but not all our time. We thrive on incentives! According to Google an incentive is any type of reward given when a specific goal is achieved. I think I need to put my thinking cap away now! LOL
• United States
29 Dec 07
I think rewards are great, I don't like bribes. I have studied this out as well. But, I also think a child should be able to comply w/out any type of reward besides a thankyou. On Fridays, I do all of our errands, and grocery shopping, pay all of our bills etc. in the morning before my two boys naps (ages 3 and 1) so it makes for a very long day. My 3 year old knows that if he is happy, and doesn't resort to whining, or crying throughout the morning, I will buy him a treat to have when we are done, but if he cries and whines, he won't recieve anything. He doesn't recieve it until after he's been a good boy and I feel it's justified, because I ask alot of him that day. It's not a bribe, as He won't get it unless he behaves, and trust me he has missed out on his treat many times, and he doesn't get it other times when we are shopping, just once a week, on that really crazy, busy day. The result of a reward, is usually the child learning that if they behave, and obey, they may be rewarded for it. The result of a bribe is a child learning, that if they cry and whine and throw a fit, mommy will buy them something to try and keep them happy. It can be difficult to tell whether it's a bribe or a reward.. I think the best course of action, is to stop and think about what you are doing it, many times parents wait until they are very frustrated and fed up to do something about children's behavior, and instead of disciplining them in wal-mart, they'll go to the candy/toy aisle in attempt to buy themselves more time.. but unfortunantly they are just setting themselves up for failure in the future. There are alot of people who do things w/out thought of proper payment, and I think if you want to raise your children to be those sort of people, you must be that sort of person first. The person who helps the old lady pick up her things when she drops them, or holds the door for someone else and doesn't get upset when they don't recieve a thankyou. My husband and I try to be those sort of people, and our children see that, and hopefully they'll be those sort of people as they grow up. Also, our children are expected to obey, when they are told, w/out any reward in sight. There are times that they impress us, and because we are so amazed at their obediance, or the character they display, we give them a treat, but that is not or never should be thier motivation. Ie, the other day, my three year old heard our youngest crying, he ran into his room and gave him a hug, and told him "it's okay baby, don't cry, Big brother's here" and just loved on him immensly He also went and found a toy of his own and shared it with his little brother, because he knew it would make him stop crying. I hadn't planned on playing a computer game with my oldest, but I was moved by his compassion for his little brother, and so I wanted to reward him for his great behavior. He didn't do it because he thought he'd be rewarded, he was motivated by his love for his brother, not by a prize/reward he would recieve.
29 Dec 07
I agree with your reply 100% except only with 'normal' children. Of course children should comply without any type of rewards expected in the end. And regular, normal, respectful children do display compassion and motivation to please in normal respectful circumstances. However my post was based on children who are defiant by nature. Children either diagnosed with Oppositional Defiance Disorder or extremely difficult to handle. I have no trouble with my oldest daughter and yes she receives many rewards out of the blue for things she's done. My youngest on the other hand is a whole different story. For the most part, she's a great kid/person. But when November/December hits, it's like all hell has broken loose. We cannot get her to do anything, we cannot reason with her and it's a daily battle, not only emotionally but often physically as she becomes quite aggressive. So I'm suppose to 'reward' the days she isn't aggressive, 'reward' the times she cooperates, 'reward' her good behaviour. Pay loads of attention to the good and ignore the bad. We've done lots of it, mostly spending one-on-one time with her, promising games and stories, going outdoors tobogganing or making a snowman, and tomorrow I'm planning a baking session with her. In the meantime, I am emotionally drained with the continuous upkeep of her demands, something I cannot expect parents of 'normal' children to understand. If I hear that she is spoiled one more time from parents who just don't have a clue what life is like with this child, I'm sure to pop my own head off. Yesterday was very embarrassing however it was in front of parents who do understand. She was as defiant as ever and very aggressive to the point I asked my husband to take her out of the room. As he picked her up, she squirmed and hit and kicked and he dropped her then catching her mid air with his knee in her back which fueled even more anger in her and she got more aggressive to the point we just had to stand back and pray she didn't hurt anyone including herself. What started this fit? Another boy touched her. TOUCHED HER! She got upset and punched him. It all escalated from there until I asked hubby to intervene. When she finally calmed down, we asked her to get ready to leave so we could head home. And another fit caused us to just pick her up, place her in the car and throw her jacket and boots on the seat next to her. Every day, she seems to be getting worse. Every year, it seems to fuel more anger and more aggression. I should be starting a daily diary but by the end of the day, I'm so exhausted and emotionally wrecked, I don't want to bother. I want to sleep, get away from the day, and pray for a better one tomorrow which of course, I'm only fooling myself. Every year, this behaviour lasts well into the spring and then she miraculously changes back into a wonderful child. It's only December and I'm already beat by this behaviour. We can't see the psych until the end of January, if she can fit us in, although she told me she wanted the school observation done before we saw her again and it hasn't been done. I feel like I'm at a loss right now and it's all coming out here on MyLot! Sorry for such a long vent but thank you for listening!
• United States
29 Dec 07
Yes I agree, the more strong-willed/defiant child will give you more problems, and I think then you kind of have to wait it out and see what works. Some children will notice the rewards, and then throw a fit if they don't recieve one with every good deed, others it may work for. And some kids, like yours may just throw a fit anyways. (: My oldest, is compliant, definently. We have our moments of course, he's three, but I'd say he obeys 85-90% of the time, the first time asked. My youngest, although he will obey about 50-65% of the time (he's 15 months) he will do it very upset. He throws fits like the one you described. he started when he was 4 months old, when He had to get put in his car seat, he would arch his back and scream bloody murder while I would Physically have to force him into the car seat, I'm sure people at walmart thought i was killing him. (; at 6 months he weaned himself from nursing, then refused to take any kind of liquid unless i spoon fed it to him, for three days.. He has a will that I fear may be stronger than mine. We obviously haven't done the reward thing with him, as he is only 15 months, but as he gets older, we'll try it, but we'll have to see what works. Right now, when he hears the word no, He throws himself down, bangs his little head on the floor and just screams and screams and screams.. almost every time w/out fail, It can be very embarrassing, but we can't give in because he can throw a big fit.. can you imagine if we did what we would have on our hands? Lord, have mercy. (: There are days, that I just want to throw in the towel, and he's so young, I must admit, it seems a little overwhelming at times.. especially when we are out in public. I am constantly getting bloody lips when he throws a fit, because he'll rear his head back right into my mouth... When we are at home, and he begins such a fit, I pick him up, and put him in his crib and shut the door, He doesn't come out until he's settled down a bit, not just because it's punishment, but i'm also scared he's going to hurt himself, when we are in public, well that's another story, usually I hold him tightly until he calms down if i can, otherwise we high-tail it out of there and go home.. I am guilty of leaving abandoned baskets of groceries at walmart.. (: What gives me hope and peace, is knowing first of all, I'm not alone, there are many other mothers with children who have very strong wills, we usually isolate ourselves, and feel like failures, if he had been my first, I would be convinced that I was failing, and that he is the way he is because I was doing something wrong, there still are times when I question my skill as a mother, but I think we all do at times. Also, realizing that his stubborn will, can take him places that many people fail to achieve. He will fight, and is not afraid to stand up for himself, he will be courageous and bold and believe in himself. And to me, it's worth it, to keep trying to do my best. I always tell my hubby this, and it's so true, I constantly feel like my youngest and I are fighting against each other, it's not the way i want it, but I see progress.. it's getting better, I am a little worried about the terrible two's coming up, and all the defiance w/in Normal toddlers at that age.. and my son will be there soon.. and that worries me.. but I take Solace in knowing that God gave him to me, because He knew I could handle him. It wasn't an oversight, he knew I was up for the job.. even if it is daunting at times. I pray that things turn around for you and your little one.. that an answer will be found that can help you. Good luck to you and your family!
2 Jan 08
Now you've confused me! I need to put on my thinking cap! Usually my reward is the satisfaction I feel within me. And you might want to call me a lunatic, but I usually don't do something when I've been offered an incentive. Then I feel that I'm working for the incentive and not for myself. Well, if I'm given the incentive AFTER I've done the job (and it hasn't been mentioned before), then I'm all too happy to take it and consider it an appreciation for my efforts. Now when it comes to my kids, I want it to be the same. I do not offer any rewards or incentives. It worked till my son was 6...isn't working anymore:( But I'm still sticking to what I said earlier and no rewards for my son. He comes and asks me 'If I do this now, will you give me --- after I am done?' And I say, 'You do what has to be done!' NO, 'I will consider later', no 'Let me see', nothing. Sometimes I feel I am too harsh but I don't want him doing stuff because he is going to get a reward. I do have a talk about it when I can but don't it on a regular basis.