News in Parenting: Rewards, Bribes, and Extortion
This short article focuses on how rewards, bribes, and extortion play into raising a child. I think it’s a great article to read for any parent or nanny who struggles with the whole idea of giving and taking away special privileges or treats. I know it’s a pretty prevalent topic in Abby’s household as we started potty training this week. But even outside of potty training, these concepts become in issue in raising children nearly every single day. Let me give you a peek into how Dr. Tylan explains them away (a view which I pretty highly agree with).
As for rewards, they are a good thing. Tylan cites rewards as a very useful way to help kids do things they find difficult. I can preach all day to this. Abby would be plenty happy right now to pee through her undies every other minute if it wasn’t for the lure of tiny marshmallows (thank God for those things). Eventually it will become second nature and she won’t need the incentive anymore, but as for now, she knows her reward and therefore saves me from endless accident clean ups. We use rewards for more than just potty training though. Abby knows that if she is good during swim class, listening to the teacher and kicking when called on, she will get a chocolate milk. This reward was developed after an unfortunate first swim class incident (poor mama and dada). Ever since though, she has been the perfect little swimmer.
Tylan states that many parents are wary of setting up reward systems for children like this as they see it as a bribe. However, bribing your child to behave is instinctively different from rewarding them for good behavior. Let me give you an example. Abby and I were at the Zoo earlier this week (see my Monday’s Rambling’s post from this week for a detailed play by play). Well, long story short, she wasn’t having the best of days. After wandering away from me multiple times and being quite whiny, she knew she was in trouble. When she saw that I was about to scold her, she said “You buy me popcorn, then I be good”. If I had taken up this offer, or come up with the suggestion myself, I would have been bribing her. I would’ve been saying “Here Abby, I’ll trade you popcorn for your crabby attitude”.
Tylan explains this “bribe” as the child extorting the adult. The power had switched from being in my power to being in hers. It would have been different if on the way to the zoo I had told Abs “If you’re really good at the zoo today, I’ll buy you popcorn on the way out”. That would be a reward. But in the heat of the moment, power was all hers. Needless to say, I simply smiled at her and said, “I don’t think so, Sweetheart. If you don’t behave, then we’re going home”. Sure, a meltdown ensued. But continually letting her control the situation simply was not an option – I personally don’t want to have any part in raising a child like that.
Simply put, rewards help children develop healthy habits and good behaviors, bribes help children realize they can manipulate you. Let’s all shoot for the former instead of the latter :)
Side note: Today The Naptime Nook celebrates its 100th post! Hooray!