Positive Parenting

Is a Reward a Bribe? The Truth About Rewards.

Parents often have mixed feelings about rewards. Often we are interested in using them but have mixed feelings about whether they are “right”. A common misconception is that a reward is the same as a bribe. Rest assured parents! Rewards are not bribes. The main difference between a bribe and a reward is that a reward is planned, while a bribe is not.

Let’s take the “all too famous” trip to the grocery store for example. You’re at the checkout and your little one is throwing a tantrum because he or she wants to get out of the cart. If a parent reacts with:

“If you stop the fuss I will let you pick out a treat.” — that’s a bribe. In this scenario the child makes the connection that whining and throwing a tantrum will earn him a reward.

If the same parent preps their little one before heading into the grocery store: reminding them of their goal (The goal is and that if they behave they will earn a Kudo) then child completes the task, and gets to spin their reward wheel, that’s a reward. It’s a reward because the parent set forth a plan for the behavior, and didn’t act in a spur of the moment situation. In this scenario the child makes the connection that acting good at the grocery store will earn him praise from mommy, and maybe even a reward.

Rewards, if used correctly, are very motivating and can even set your child up for success as he/she grows up. Think about it, if your child learns that accomplishing something equals a good feeling and a reward, he or she will continue that path. People behave according to the gratification principle; behaviors that are rewarding continue, behaviors that are not rewarding do not. Rewards are used all around us on an almost everyday basis. For example, do a good job at work, you get rewarded with a bonus or promotion. Receiving praise after a sports or musical performance increases the chances you will keep working to perfect your craft.

Combining rewards with positive praise can be very effective in motivating and changing a child’s behavior. Rewards can be used to help motivate children to change negative behaviors and even work on learning new ones.

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