Do you bribe to discipline your kids?

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Parents who bribe their way through to deal with their children need to understand that it is not a form of discipline. It's important that one doesn't get the two confused.

“If you clean your room, I’ll take you out to your favourite restaurant”.

Many of us are guilty of making statements like this in an effort to get our children to comply with our requests.

But when you think about it, this amounts to bribery, plain and simple. It’s true that many parents bribe their kids in this manner out of sheer desperation.

However, what they may not know is that getting their children to do things in expectation of a reward may have emotional and developmental consequences.

Why do parents bribe their children?

Parents may bribe their children for a number of reasons, such as:

  • They have lost control of their children
  • They are trying to avoid public embarrassment
  • They use bribery as a form of discipline
  • They want to be their child’s friend/peer instead of their parent
  • They were bribed as children themselves and don’t know any other way
  • They are too lazy or scared to hold their children to a higher standard of obedience and respect

How do parents bribe their children?

Parents bribe their children using a variety of methods. Some of the more common forms of parental bribery include:

  • Material possessions: Parents will bribe their children with shoes, clothing, phones, and more.
  • Attention: Sadly, parents bribe their children with promises of time together as a way to get their children to do or say something. This is especially common in cases when parents are divorced or in the process of getting one and fighting for custody.
  • Love: Parents sometimes use their love as a bribe to get their children to act or be a certain way.

Keep reading on the next page to learn more about the dangers of bribery.

The dangers of bribery

According to experts, bribing a child can send him powerful messages such as, “you don’t want to have good behaviour”, “you’re not capable of good behaviour without bribery”, and “good behaviour is only important to adults”.

In other words, you’re telling the child that “activity must not have any intrinsic value—you must have to pay me to get me to do it”.

Elizabeth Pantley, the author of Kid Cooperation: How to Stop Yelling, Nagging, and Pleading and Get Kids to Cooperate, explains that the more you bribe, the more you depend on it as a way of getting your child to follow your instructions.

Other parenting experts point out that bribing a child fails to teach him responsibility and respect. Instead, children develop a sense of entitlement, which may be a “prescription for a lifetime of unhappiness”.

Discipline without bribery

The goal and purpose of discipline is to teach a child the right way to live and treat others. To do so without bribery is possible and should be the goal of every parent.

Dr Thomas Gordon, who founded one of the first skill-based training programs for parents in 1962 in the US, and other parenting experts, share a few tips to communicate with your kids and encourage them to listen to your instructions, without bribery:

  • Use active listening: Just listen to your child’s problems without giving reassurance or solutions. Dr Gordon explains that this is telling your child you accept him for who he is, just the way he is.
  • Use “I” language: But not just when there is a problem. When you say something like, “I feel upset because I don’t like getting late” or “I like the way your bedroom looks”, you’re getting a message across without judging or blaming.
  • Be empathetic: If you can show your child genuine empathy before telling them of consequences, this enables you to discipline your child without being nasty.
  • Give regular, positive feedback: It’s so easy to slip into a pattern of making negative remarks in the face of disciplinary issues with a child. But parenting experts encourage you to “provide regular, specific, positive feedback and encouragement.” With this, you’ll probably notice a positive change in your child’s behaviour.

Take the poll below and share your opinion: Is bribing an acceptable way of disciplining a child or not?