If you're a parent, then you have very likely resorted to bribing your kids at one point or another in order to get stuff done, or put an end to a tantrum. Maybe a little treat in the grocery store is what it takes to be able to finish your shopping in relative peace. Or maybe incentives for getting out of the house on time are the only way to keep the train running smoothly. We've ALL done it. Think about potty training, for example! Lots of parents use treats as an incentive to get their kids to go on the potty during that stressful and trying stage. But how beneficial are bribes? Or, to frame it differently, how successful are they? Sure, they work, and generally speaking, they're pretty harmless! But, according to David Gruder, Ph.D., a family therapist and author of The New IQ: How Integrity Intelligence Serves You, Your Relationships, and Our World, they aren't harmless.
Bribing your kids is offering them rewards for basic expectations and behaviors (or worse, rewarding them for not meeting those expectations or exhibiting problematic behaviors). If you're looking to get off the bribery kick, here are some tips and ways to get what you need without resorting to bribing your kids.
Establish rules, and allow your kids to see the consequences for not following those rules.
We've all been there: your kid doesn't want to finish their homework, or put on a coat, or clean up their room. So, in an effort to make sure they do those things, we sweeten the pot a bit with a bribe. But again, that's not teaching them anything beyond expecting rewards for not doing what is expected of them. Next time your kid fights with you about homework, skip the bribe. Tell them what the consequences of not completing the assignment will be (poor marks in class, detention, whatever the consequence is at school), and allow them to make the choice. Kids are more likely to follow the rules when they know what will happen if they don't.
Make sure you're keyed into your child's needs.
When your kid suddenly doesn't want to do something that they normally enjoy, it seems like a good time to bribe them to do it, right? After all, you know they WANT to do it, maybe they're just having an off day. No sense in fighting over something like that. But, if they suddenly don't want to do something they normally love, that can be a sign there's more going on. Kids behaviors can change when they're sick, or not feeling well, or experiencing an issue that they need to talk about. Check all those boxes before resorting to a bribe.
Make yourself a priority.
Listen, we get it: when mom is tired and over it and just needs some time to herself, we will do just about anything for some peace and quiet. When we are stressed out, we're more likely to resort to the easiest thing (like a bribe) so we don't have to come up with another solution. If we're recharged on a regular basis, we're in a better place to come up with more beneficial solutions than a quick bribe. Make sure you're recharging your own batteries.
Address the triggers that often result in bribes.
Morning routines, homework, dinner: these can all be high-stress situations that have us reaching for the bribe just to get through them on a daily basis. So rather than wait until you're stressed out, address the issues to resolve them. Running late every morning? Set your alarm to wake up a bit earlier and give yourselves more time. Kiddos won't eat their dinner? Get them involved in meal planning and prep, so they have some ownership over what they eat. If you nip the issues in the bud before they spiral out of control, you can retain control over the situation.