Are those sweets a reward or a bribe?

The Rev Canon Bob White with representatives of the groups involved in our Christmas campaignh run with churches in Portsmouth - Comfort and Joy

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What is the difference between a bribe and a reward for your child’s good behaviour?

In both of these situ-ations they are getting something

for doing what you want them to do,

so aren’t they really just the same thing?

Here’s an example: a child has a very untidy room and you can’t see the carpet for all the toys sprawled across the floor. It really is a mess, so parent asks the child to tidy up their room but the child is not keen on the idea.

So the parent offers the child a large slice of her favourite chocolate cake on completion of a tidy room.

Do you see this as a bribe or a reward?

In the dictionary a bribe is defined as a promise or offer to give something to a person to get them to do something you want them to do.

A reward is defined as something given or received for services rendered.

As a parent rewards and bribes can become very confused and sometimes when you mean to offer a reward, it is really a bribe.

I see the difference as this: a reward is something that happens after the event, so the child doesn’t know that they will get something good at the end, but a bribe is something that is offered before or during the event to encourage the child to do what you want them to do.

I’m all for rewarding positive behaviour and strongly believe that more attention should be given to it and less attention should be given to bad and negative behaviour.

In fact I’ve realised over the almost five years that I have been a parent that most of the time, completely ignoring the bad behaviour is the best option and will create harmony quicker.

But ignoring is not always as easy as it sounds, especially if the behaviour is disruptive, irritating and, worst of all, in public with an audience.

So this is where the art of bribery comes into the equation, something I’d bet most parents are guilty of, including me.

Just the other day when dropping my eldest daughter off at school, my two-year-old daughter Alyssa wanted to stay and play with her sister and I was struggling to get her to leave the classroom. That was until I whispered in her ear: ‘Come with Daddy and we’ll get some sweeties.’ In an instant I had her full cooperation.

But then I must not make a habit of this as it could create a sense of entitlement and a child that always asks themselves ‘What’s in it for me’ when a job needs to be done.

So from now on I will try to reward rather than bribe, and I’ve promised myself a large slice of chocolate cake if I get it right.