Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Motivation or bribe?:

Where does motivation end and bribing begin with children?
By Kylie Johnston
Date: May 27 2014
Editor Rating:

Have you ever bribed your children? When you say something like "If you do this, then you can have that"?

Chances are you'll say yes and you're not alone. Many parents tell me that when they're exasperated this is the most effective way to convince their children to do something. It's a strategy that makes it difficult in the classroom as a teacher, especially in older classes. 

I read a report recently by a US financial investment company which said that such 'low grade' form of bribery is a critical part of the parental toolkit. It showed that 48% of parents bribed their children from time-to-time. My guess is the actual figure may be even higher. 

What is not known is just how different parents may have interpreted the concept of a 'bribe' to their children. The report's lead author, Stuart Ritter of T Rowe Price, commented that if kids get something in return for doing chores, is that an incentive? A reward? Or a bribe?

My anecdotal soundings as a teacher (and a parent who has also been harassed) is that many parents are more than willing to whip out the wallet for their children.

For example, I know of some parents who are willing to pay for a good grade. I teach in a primary school and the going rate for one of the children in the school was $20 for an 'A' - for a primary student!

Another of the dads at the school where I teach, who has primary care of and financial responsibility for his children, told me that has no qualms paying his kids.

He says that when he has had a busy day at work, and has more work or housework to do at night, it's very simple just to say something like 'If you clear the table, stack the dishes and make your lunch for tomorrow, I'll give you ...' something he knows they would value. He says it's usually money but sometimes it's a special treat or privilege. 

I suggested to him that he would better deal with this issues by making these chores part of this children's daily activities as their contribution to the household.

While many of us have done similar things, we still want to be seen as excellent role models.  In the survey mentioned above, 69% of parents say that they are "very" or "extremely" concerned with setting a good financial example.

It's one of the many challenges of parenting. 

The real question when you dangle a monetary reward in front of your children is what it is they're also learning. What goals are you talking about? How do they learn priorities about money or reward? What are you telling them about the importance of saving or working for reward?

In other words, if you're giving your kids money so they will 'be good' or leave you in peace - that's not appropriate. But if you're giving them money to teach them about important budgetary issues like saving, spending, or giving to charity - that can work well. 

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