Bribery for behavior

One morning, when I asked my kid to get himself dressed for school, he immediately asked if he would receive an early birthday present in exchange for this great service. 

I said no, of course, thinking: Wait, what? 

After thinking for a second, he retorted sincerely: “But I’m not motivated. How am I supposed to get motivated?”

Oh, dear. 

Do you think I had fallen maybe a bit too far down the slippery slope of bribes and rewards?

And then, wouldn’t you know it, I ended up editing a story for this very issue about the dangers of constantly rewarding kids for desired behavior (versus just expecting it) or — worse — bribing children to prevent negative behaviors. 

My problem is it always feels like a grey area when I’m in the heat of the moment. I just want to get through parenting challenges — quickly and at all costs. 

But that’s not a good mentality, said Betsy Cadel, who was quoted in the article: “A surprise trip to the gift shop for good behavior before you leave a museum is a reward. An unplanned stop at the gift shop to put an end to moping or whining is a bribe.”

As we move into back-to-school season — and we’re faced with even more pressure to get out the door on time (with or without bribes) — I think it’s important to remember it’s OK to expect more of our kids (perhaps in my case way more). 

We do some things just because we do them. And they are mundane. And that’s life, kiddo.

Dr. Carol Carlson, a pediatrician, mother of four and medical director at Southdale Pediatrics in Edina says parents should be wary of creating a give-me-this-for-that culture.  

“Bribery doesn’t change the original behavior,” she said. “It just fosters how to get more out of their parents. And they continue to not cooperate.”  

And we don’t want that now, do we?

These lessons are much easier to learn, it would seem, among preschool teachers, who have an uncanny way of bringing out the best in our kids in a group setting. 

I mean how do they get so many kids to listen and behave all at once?

In this issue, thanks to a new book by two teachers (called Your Amazing Preschooler), we have the tricks for getting “the same capable, confident and cooperative child at home that teachers have at school.” 

Check out their cool tips.

I hope you find, like I did, some really great ideas to help take your amazing kid successfully back to school!

– Sarah Jackson, Editor