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Bribes or Incentives?

Aug 23, 2022

Have you ever thought about the difference between a bribe and an incentive? Candy, treats, staying up late, more video game time, or a new toy are all great examples of things that parents use as bribes or incentives.  Most parents end up feeling guilty when they are bribing their child.  Why do we do it? Because it works…at first.  If you are using treats or toys out of desperation in moments when your child is showing negative behaviors, it is bribery.  If your child is a good negotiator, she will keep upping her demands until you comply.  Bribery is part of a power struggle which can end up reinforcing negative behaviors. 

Incentives can be quite effective in moderation.  Giving a child a short-term or long-term goal with a reward at the end can be part of healthy motivation.  Letting your child know before you head into the grocery store that you will have time to enjoy a treat together when you get home is an incentive.  The treat could be food or dancing to his favorite song.  Think about what lights up your child. As adults we often give ourselves incentives like eating out favorite foods on Saturday after eating well all week or watching our favorite Netflix show after paying the bills. Balance is key because, we want our kids to have internal motivation as they launch into the world.

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