Moms contact our company frequently with stories like this: The mom starts out by patiently asking her children to stop fighting. But after asking for the “umpteenth” time and having them ignore her, she starts to raise her voice, and then she feels horrible…and the kids still don’t listen. She reaches the end of her rope, is at her wit’s end, wants immediate results, so, “bribes the child.”
We tell the moms who ask us that bribes don’t work, even when you most want to use a bribe to settle your child. It is more effective to tell the child that he or she will face a consequence, if the unacceptable behavior continues and follow-through with that consequence. On the other hand, when the child behaves, you should praise, praise, and praise! Let him know that it is marvelous and wonderful when he listens. We have found that consistency and follow-through are essential.
Consistency, follow-through, and praise sound easy enough. Then why do parents so easily fall into the bribery trap?
Here are some parenting tips:
One reason is that raising kids and running a household is incredibly challenging. When you are half-way through folding a load of laundry and your child reaches over and tosses the folded clothes across the room; or when you are in the grocery store with a full basket and your child starts grabbing food out of the cart and pitching it onto the floor, what do you do?
It is definitely tempting to bribe children to stop the disruptive behavior with a new toy or a snack. However, rewarding the negative behavior with a bribe ultimately leads the child back to that same unacceptable behavior, the next time with a vengeance.
If the child gets a new toy for causing a scene in the supermarket, imagine what the child will get, if she starts screeching like a monkey in the middle of a busy shoe store in the mall.
It is really important to be your child’s advocate. Think about the tools your child needs to be equipped for teen years and adulthood. As hard as it is not to appease in the moment, consider your child’s best interest for the long run.
We offer ten tips for parents who want to find an alternative to bribery:
1. Immediately respond to the incident making sure that the child realizes that her behavior is unacceptable. Little kids need to be educated about right and wrong.
2. Use words the child will understand to explain that you are upset. Don’t assume she knows why you are unhappy. “Tammy, pulling the folded clothes out of the laundry basket is not okay. Mommy worked hard to fold those clothes. We have discussed this before. I am giving you a three minute time out.”
3. Follow-through, act immediately, and do what you say you are going to do. Do not make idle threats.
4. Ask the child to apologize.
5. Reward the child with a huge hug and kiss and thank him for completing the time-out. Then let it go. It is not fair to your child to dwell on an incident after he has completed the time-out or after you have taken away a toy or privilege.
6. Do not feel guilty that you had to reprimand your child. It is your obligation to your child to teach her proper behavior. If you are calm and choose an appropriate consequence then you are being a great parent.
7. Be on the look out for good behavior. How refreshing it is for kids to have their positive behavior recognized…especially when they weren’t expecting it to be noticed.
8. Keep a tally of all of the good behavior over the course of the day and reward with an extra story at bedtime, an extra fun craft project, or a “tickle extravaganza.” But most importantly, let the child know how proud you are of him or her.
9. Talk your children up! Say, “I have the most wonderful kids! I love to be with them!” Kids do hear you when you talk about them, loud and clear. Make sure that the majority of what they hear makes them feel warm and nurtured, loved, respected and cherished.
10. Children want limits set. They feel out of control if you don’t make the boundaries clear, and that scares them. One of the most wonderful gifts that you can give to your kids is to teach them how to behave properly.
Use these tough moments as teaching and shaping moments. And always remember to love your children up one side and down the other!
Moms would love to hear your thoughts about bribing kids.