Is there ever a right time to bribe kids?

Is there ever a right time to bribe kids?

Is it ever okay to bribe kids? You'll be surprised how handy a parenting tool it is!

Getting children to read, or do anything for that matter, when they’ve got their mind set on something else, can be a parent’s worst nightmare. After hours of persuasion, coaxing, sometimes even harsh disciplining, it seems so much easier to settle for a trade-off -- to bribe kids, in short.

An ice-cream for an hour of reading? iPad for completing homework? A new toy for finishing lunch? The list goes on. And the scary part is, incentives have grown such a prominent head in everyday life that kids now expect a reward for fulfilling their most basic duties!

So the question is, is it ever okay to bribe kids? The short answer is, yes, only if we know how to cheat the system. Bribing is at the core of all our human interactions whether we like it or not.

Just take a look at our daily habits. Why are we so willing to part with hundreds of dollars, when all we have is the hope that our skin will look more youthful, or our clothes will fit better. Why do we resonate with some brands and not others?

Bribery is an art, and just like any masterpiece, it takes time, patience and technique for results to reap. Here are some ways you can switch your bribing tactics around so they actually last.

1. Bribe kids as a kick-starter

Of course there are certain activities that are big no-nos for kids. Not surprisingly, the more beneficial, the greater the disdain for it. One such example is reading. Getting your child to love reading is a feat for most of us. This is when bribing has almost similar effects to a magic wand.

I’ve noticed that bribing works tremendously well when I want to kick-start a habit. When it comes to activities such as reading, it’s not easy for children to be naturally fascinated. In fact, most children find it a big challenge to read, and will only willingly delve into it when it gets easy. That is why it’s always better to reward effort than result.

In this case, bribery has to act like a match and ignite that flame in reading. Take it in bite-sized portions. Set achievable goals and entice your child through non-materialistic incentives such as special trips to the library with daddy, or grandma. I usually try to relate the incentive to the skill or habit I want the child to develop. That way, children get excited about the process and learn to look forward to the actual activity.

2. Mask values as bribes

As much as possible, I try to steer clear from materialistic rewards. With external motivations, it’s easy to find yourself upping the ante very quickly to achieve the same result. That’s where I like to mask good values or habits in the form of bribes.

Using reading as an example, instead of offering a go on the iPad for every book read, try coming up with interesting challenges such as who read the most books, star charts, late-night reading over the holidays, or best book review. By treating these as rewards from a young age, your child will grow to view these as little treats while at the same time, develop a love for reading.

3. Earn the bribe

Another effective method is letting children ‘pay’ for what they want. This works especially well when your child wants something in particular. For example, if your child wants to earn pocket money, instead of simply handing over cash, get your child to understand the value of money by working for it.

It could be through helping out with household chores or working on side projects. This way, children understand and appreciate the value of money, and also learn that they have to work for the things they want – an essential life lesson!

At the end of the day, bribery is a part of human nature. Instead of fighting against it, be creative and find ways that you can use it to your advantage to teach skills and instil good habits.

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Written by

Jan & Elly

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