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What's So Bad About Bribing Your Child?

Life with a four year old can be both rewarding and exhausting! At that age they love being independent and doing things for themselves even if that causes more problems that solves them. They can be sweet little angels who are kind caring and want to share and then with a click of a finger they turn into a little gremlin, stamping their feet or rolling around in an epic meltdown. There's nothing that she does that doesn't surprise anymore. With that being said and always being kept on my toes I have been thinking a lot about ways I try to compromise with her behaviour, yep I'm talking about bribes.

I try really hard not to use bribery with my child, but there are times when I have said to her that if she is a good girl and walks to nursery really well then we can have something nice after lunch. Or something along those lines. But I have been wondering if I use bribes too much? Or asking myself is it bribery or am I helping her move towards the next thing [or getting to nursery on time] with a little incentive? It's a general belief when it comes to parenting and bribing children that it's a bad thing and usually only something that parents who are desperate use. But you know what? Most parents use them from time to time. Hell, if I am being honest I don't know how I could actually get to sit down with a nice cup of tea without a bribe or two.

Children are not born knowing what is expected of them, what is good behaviour from bad, or table manners. If we expect these to be understood by our children then we must teach them, and that's our job as parents. We all work for something in life, and so why would children be any different? It's important to understand the difference between bribes and rewards. A bribe is something offered before the task is done in order to get your child to do what you want them to do and a reward is a way of compensating your child for their good behaviour, rather than being manipulated and extorted. Does it really matter if it’s a bribe or reward, as long as it makes your child co-operate and carry out the task in hand? Well, that depends on what you are trying to teach them in the long term.

Truthfully, we all work for something right? The use of bribes as a parent mirrors the adult world. Every single day, we all accept some kind of bribe of all sorts in exchange for our work, attention and energy. Although the term bribery may feel negative, this is totally normal part of life that our children will learn and apply to life as they grow. In our home, we have certain expectations, especially when it comes to chores and this itself is a good opportunity to use bribery but in a positive way. It's a matter of choosing the right motivators. Bottom line bribing gets results. But I do try not to use bribes on a daily basis because the habit will become the norm and she will alter her behaviour for gains rather than because she actually wants to. At the end of the day life is hard, life with a little one is even harder and a bribe can sometimes get you through the day. But the whole goal of a bribe is to build motivation in a positive way so children naturally choose to make the best decision on their own.

Bear in mind when it comes to bribery and children sometimes it can be too much. Especially if it gets to a minute by minute habit, it's no longer effective. It's important to understand that using bribery on a regular basis can become an ongoing pattern teaching your child that they need to misbehave in order to get what they want. You don't want your children to ask for some sweets for something that they are supposed to do, like brushing their teeth, or putting their shoes on. As long as we are using each situation as a teaching opportunity, bribing can be a valuable tool for all those involved. As a parent I want to teach my daughter to be kind, considerate and respectful because it's the right thing to do rather than reward her for her behaviour. But she's three years old so it's not always going to be successful, and so a bribe or two comes into play every now and again.

In the end, be kind to yourself as parents we are all still learning too! Remember that when you use to bribery to control your child’s behaviour, it can had the adverse effect than intended. Instead, teach your child to earn reasonable rewards by taking care of their responsibilities and making positive actions in improving their behaviour.

Let's see what some parents think about using bribes?

"I can't get through a single day without bribery. I like to think of it as rewarding good behaviour (but letting them know what's on offer beforehand so they make good choices". - Kate, Ever After With Kids

"I use bribes all the time. I'd love to be the mum who's kids just do what they are asked. And the majority of the time they do, but sometimes I have to pull out the bribes. I think essentially I am breaking a million 'rules of parenthood' but it works, so I'm going with it" - Sophie, Soph-Obsessed.

"I'm all for bribes and I actually think it's a good life lesson, as adults we still have the same concept, do good things and you'll usually be rewarded. We work hard to get bonuses and promotions etc. Plus how do you ever get your kids to do something without bribery?" - Georgina, Georgina Clarke Blog.

However, it's not always black and white!

"I try really hard not too, it's definitely not a common thing here. For the most part I am trying to teach my son to be kind, respectful and caring because it's the right thing to do rather than for specific reward. I want him to be intrinsically motivated to be a good person basically. But he's four so it's not always successful" - Lauren, Dilan and Me.

"Yes and no, I sometimes feel as if bribing is does all the time can have a negative affect, like santa. Even if the child is bad they will still get gifts. However bribing them with a movie or a biscuit so they tidy up is okay" - Sarah, Mummy Cat Notes

"Yes and no! I don't bribe for the day to day stuff, and we teach the kids to do things as requested with them understanding when things should be done. They can earn extra treats by doing more, but there's no pressure to deliver from our side. We do bribe when our son has procedures done in hospital for bloods, tests, scans , allergy tests, operations etc so he know he will be rewarded for being super brave and has something to look forward to" - Nathalie, The Intolerant Gourmand.

Do you use bribes with your children? 
14 comments on "What's So Bad About Bribing Your Child?"
  1. I'm all for bribes, I'm all for pocket money and doing chores round the house. It's hard and it's totally not for everyone, but I know we'll be using bribes constructively when Amelia is older haha :)

  2. Bribes can definitley work sometimes, especially with younger children, and it teaches them that if they follow through with something they will benefit from their perserverance. However, like you mentioned and some others in your quotes, there is a balance. When does bribing become too much and too often? I think it all depends on the context and how that day is going for both the parents and the child. Sometime it is just about keeping our sanity and other times it is more about teaching a good lesson.
    I think it is important though, when offering a bribe, that if a child does NOT follow through, that they are not rewarded. I often see children still getting the reward even though they did not actually hold up their part of the bargain! In that case they are just learning that they can do whatever they like and still get their reward at the end of the day (as long as they kick up enough fuss!)
    A good post with lots to consider and think about!

    1. Oh yes, I couldn't agree more. I am a firm believer in following through though. There's no way that I would reward my daughter for be naughty even if she's cheeky with it!

  3. I agree still with what I said there, bribing has a time and a place and I feel as parents we need to find the right balance between what is a good bribe and what is something that could cause arguments

    1. Thank you so much for giving me a little quote.

  4. Tyler is only 14 months old so I haven't really used bribery yet, but I know that it's something that I will probably be using as time goes on, especially if it means I will get five minutes to myself! But I agree also that it's probably not something that should be used all day everyday as a way of life, but of course each to their own! x

  5. Don’t feel bad about it! X

  6. Reuben is too young to understand bribes yet but I can assure you I'll be using them when he's old enough and understands me haha!

    Gemma Louise

  7. Love this. We definitely use bribery, especially if the food variety. And chores will bevrewarded with pocket money when theyre older. You've just got to do what you can really.

  8. Bribery is sometimes the only way I can get a minutes peace! x

  9. Got to admit I love a good bribe, it works wonders if you just need them to behave for a moment.

  10. This is such an interesting post


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