Bribery or rewards…are they not both the same?

I often wonder what the difference is between a bribe and a reward. After all, in both instances, your children (or hubby) are getting something for doing what you want him or her to do. But is one better than the other to teach better behavior?  Or are they both harmful?

I am one of “those” parents that use bribery (or is it rewards?) on a fairly regular basis. I have been guilty of telling Junior that if he behaves during our trip to Kroger he will get a package of his beloved Starbursts at check-out time. Does it work?  YES…on most days, anyway.  Bribery was partly what made Junior’s potty training a success too. His wonderful Grandma’s bribery (or reward system) of wrapped toys got him to use the potty religiously.  I am even guilty for bribing J and Sassafras to complete homework, do chores, or behave appropriately during church or formal occasions. Shame on me!

Ice cream after running errands. A bribery or reward?

Even the hubs seems more compliant when bribes or rewards are involved. After all, don’t we all love being rewarded in some way for doing what we need to be doing anyway?

I find I use the term rewards when referring to students in my classroom. Because… quite frankly, it is not considered socially appropriate for a teacher to say “today your child was bribed to do______________” as opposed to saying “today your child was rewarded for ________________”.  Some of the rewards I use are for behavior, homework, caught-being-good (also known as sitting quietly and doing your work), and accelerated reader.

So often the line between bribery and rewards are blurred…or maybe it is just my cloudy mommy-muddled mind that can’t distinguish between the two! So from now on I will refer to it as reward bribenly. I am a teacher so I believe that gives me entitlement to make up words like bribenly, right?

Now tell me how you reward your own children, grandchildren, or students bribenly. Please tell me I am not the only one who utilizes this parenting tactic.


9 thoughts on “Bribery or rewards…are they not both the same?

  1. I’m sure I subconsciously bribe my kid, although I do try to make it a point not to. But that’s not a big surprise considering I’m not big on rewards either lol. I give praise and even then only praise his efforts rather than giving him a reward for something awesome he did. I don’t want to go down the path where he will only do things expecting external rewards rather than instrinsic rewards like personal satisfaction.

    But at some point I still do this, for instance saying, “Let’s go to your bed so we can read books!” I mean, in that case books are still somewhat of a reward, right? I guess incentive is the word here?

    Don’t worry mama, we all do it 😉

  2. I always used verbal praises. I made sure they knew that I was proud of them. I wanted to belf their self esteem and sense of self worth. I very rarely used a reward system, because I was worried that a reward would become expected for doing things they were supposed to do anyway. I never rewarded for good behavior. Behaving properly is something that should be done at all times because it is the right thing to do, not because you get something out of it.

    I am not stating my way was right, but those were my practices and why I did them.

    1. I agree Brett. Behaving properly is something that should be done at all times; but I know in the classroom setting not all students have been provided this sense of self worth from home. In order to obtain a particular behavior (in some students) a reward (or positive incentive), or behavior plan is put in place.
      Thanks for your response 🙂

  3. As adults we get “bribed” all the time. We go to work because they pay us don’t we? I don’t think it’s such a bad thing for a kid to get “paid” too? At least occasionally.

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