Let’s Talk About “Bribing” Our Kids

Parenting, bribing, incentives

Written by Dr. John Carosso

Are parents “bribing” their kids? Yikes!

Parents often talk of “bribing” their child and, when they use the term, there is a sense of ‘doing the wrong thing’, making the situation worse, and even a sense of guilt. However, in actuality, when using the term, parents are often simply conveying the idea of giving their child something extra to promote obedience. I would suggest, by that definition, we all “bribe” our kids on a daily basis.

Are we all going to jail?

Well, yes, we would be if, in fact, we were offering bribes. You see, giving a “bribe” is illegal. So, if you bribe anyone for anything, then off to jail you go.

So why aren’t we all in jail?

Because we’re not bribing our kids. A bribe is an incentive, often in monetary form, to promote something corrupt or illegal.

Are we doing that?

Nope, we’re not. Instead, we are simply giving our kiddo’s some incentive to behave. That’s not illegal. In fact, it’s very legal, and quite wise.

Why is it wise?

We all need an incentive to accomplish goals. We hope that the incentive is internalized (i.e. our kids do the chore because they want to and realize that it’s just ‘the right thing to do’) but for many kids that’s just not the case. Also, in all fairness, sometimes it’s just harder for some kids, with ADHD for example, to pay attention and stay focused; they are using far more energy than other kids to accomplish tasks and they tend to tucker-out quicker. Consequently, we need to provide some external motivation (a reward or prize) for them to exert that extra energy and then fade the reward over time as the child matures, learns better coping skills, and internalizes the motivation. . It’s not much different from you getting a paycheck for doing your work, though hopefully your paycheck does not fade over time. In any case, we all need motivation of some sort.

Hope that helps

It’s a brief explanation, but I hope that helps to clear-up the difference between a “bribe” and simply offering an incentive for your child to complete their chores. Now go give those bribes, oops, I mean rewards.

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Dr. John Carosso

I work as a Child Psychologist, and School Psychologist in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania,specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD, Behavioral Problems, Autism, Depression, Trauma, and Educational issues. I also provide in-home and in-school wraparound services.