Bribe? reward? praise? What’s the difference? And does it really matter how you motivate your tot? By Sam-Toweel Moore
You know that if your child doesn’t cooperate, you can bribe him with an ice-cream or some other tempting play item.
But are you harming him or simply rewarding him for good behaviour?
Bribes and rewards do have something in common. In both cases, you give your child something in return for good behaviour. The important difference lies in what you teach him.
Bribing encourages him to act in a certain way to get what he wants, whereas a reward will teach him commitment and responsibility. It’s vital to ensure you’re installing good characteristics rather than encouraging manipulation.
Why bribes are harmful
Your child will cooperate only to obtain and indulgence and feels entitled to a treat for the most basic responsibility, like brushing his teeth. Eventually he learns just how far he can push you. For the sake of peace, you give in and your child has learnt a vice rather than a virtue.
How to avoid bribes
Encourage good behaviour by:
Why rewards are helpful
Society works on a reward system. You work; you get paid. Rewards, star charts and, later on, contracts are usually effective in developing maturity in your child.
An effective reward system
Explain to your child the benefit of what you’re asking him to do. Brushing teeth twice a day will keep them healthy, for example.
- Select the reward. Your child needs to be able to identify the rewards and to choose the one most suitable. Having a list of rewards, and allowing him to negotiate with you, teaches him to reason and be independent.
- Match the reward to the behaviour. A reward is similar to a salary. Your child needs to understand what he’ll earn from a particular behaviour.
- Be specific. Leave no room for misunderstandings. For example, if you reward your child for keeping his room tidy, then explain exactly what this means.
- Set times. Tell him his room needs to be cleaned just before supper time, and give him a 15-minute warning. Ring a bell when it must be done.
- Provide a friendly reminder. Picture charts, depicting desired behaviours work well. Your child will take time to learn the new behaviour, and this prevents the need for you to nag him.
- Set a time frame. New habits take about three weeks to learn. Explain to your child that after this time, he’ll be expected to continue the behaviour without an incentive.
Praise that will inspire
Avoid generalisations like ‘best’ and ‘perfect’. Your child will probably realise that these are just stock phrases, and he won’t experience complete satisfaction in carrying out his tasks. Consequently, he’ll devalue your praise and may not trust your judgement.
Effective praise is:
What motivates your child?
Children are mostly motivated by things they enjoy or want. Your child holds your positive view of him in high regard. But if you provide him with rewards regardless of his behaviour, he’ll lose the incentive to work at new skills. Motivate him with sincere words of praise and acknowledgement, and concrete rewards that he can earn daily. Set bigger rewards for the future to teach perseverance.
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