Bribes Versus Rewards
Here’s an interesting question: what’s the difference between a reward and a bribe? Many would say that the distinction comes down to the use of the word “if”. “If you keep your room clean all month, I’ll give you $20.” That would be considered a bribe because the child has the option to do it or not. The room stays messy? No money. It’s up to him or her. But a reward is something given for a job well done. Not a huge difference, perhaps. But however we define it, we need to be careful about paying kids for their behaviour.
Is it a good idea to pay for chores done around the house? I’m not a huge fan of that arrangement. At a certain point, your kids will decide they don’t need the money that badly or that they’d rather do without both the money and the chore. You’ve set up a plan that allows them an escape clause. But the garbage still needs to be taken out, and the dog still needs to be walked, and the dishwasher still needs to be unloaded. So now who does it? Yup, you. By tying chores or other responsibilities (such as school grades) to money, we muddy the waters of both . Kids do chores and contribute around the house because that’s what it means to be a member of a family. And, kids have money in order to learn money management. When we combine the two, we risk damaging both lessons.
We have to be careful not to sap our children’s innate motivation by tying their success to rewards. If we pay our kids for A’s on their report card, the incentive is financial and dependent on someone else (you) and your determination of success. But by teaching our kids to always try their best and that we’re proud of their efforts regardless of the results, they become internally motivated, wanting to succeed because of the way it makes them feel. I think that’s the goal of most parents: for their children to do the right thing, even when there’s no one watching. Giving a reward – or a bribe – for any task completed works against that goal.
More thoughts on kids and money here and here .
Wanting to hit reset on how you’ve been handling family challenges? Start by going Back To Basics, then read about A Parent’s Best Friend. And here are 5 Things You Can Do Today To Improve Your Family Life.