Do Rewards Equate to Bribery? {Natural Parenting Blog Party}

The Peaceful Housewife

I am currently in my final year of earning my Bachelor of Science in Education and Sociology. Throughout my education, I have repeatedly come across "ways to get students to do what they want" portions of nearly every class. Nearly every one of these lists starts with bribery - "To motivate your students to do well on a test, give a piece of candy to each student that gets an 'A'. As other students observe this reward system, they will also try harder on tests so they may also receive a reward." It makes me sick. Really, I'm not kidding. I think that children should learn based on internal motivations and that motivation gets squashed almost as soon as they step into a classroom that offers candy or other treats for learning. I've literally received lower grades in classes for going against this line of thought. I could have just written papers full of hypocrisy that follow what was being taught, but I think that this is wrong and I want my voice to be heard by my classmates on this matter - especially when these student teachers are still forming their own opinions.

As a parent, I have made the mistake of playing the "If-Then" rewards game many times over. In fact, I'm going through it right now. It's so easy to get your kids to do things you want or need them to do when you can say, "If you pick up all of your toys, then I will let you have a cookie!" Those blocks generally get cleaned up immediately! It was working amazingly well. That is, until recently.

My kids had started to weigh whether the reward was worth their efforts. I usually send my oldest down to the store on the corner to pick up milk or eggs. When he went, I was giving him an extra dollar to get himself a snack. Last week, when I asked him to run down there for me, he said no. WHAT?! He told me he wasn't hungry and, anyway, we already had some peanut butter crackers if he did get hungry. And Little Guy refused to pick up his blocks - over and over. I was getting desperate to the point that I was escalating the prize without even realizing what I was doing. He finally picked them up when I offered a brownie (he rarely gets anything chocolate.) Reality set in. I was doing the one thing that I was so out-spoken against in my classes. I needed to change my tactics right away.

With my oldest, it's much easier to just explain the situation and have him understand. He's a pretty rational guy. I simply told him that we needed milk and I couldn't take Little Guy out because it was too windy and chilly to walk with him. He is old enough to be responsible for getting an item I needed to make dinner and so he could go get it - without the extra dollar. He stomped out the door. But, when he came back, he apologized and told me he understood. He even suggested that I stop giving him the extra money and just buy him surprise snacks once in a while. Um... OK!

Now, the little guy is not that easily placated. He is used to getting special treats for doing what I want. As I was writing the Crafting with Toddlers post, it occurred to me that his "reward" for following the directions is the sense of pride he gets when the project is finished. So, I am very slowly working on getting him to do other things and then trying to instill that same pride in a job well done. For instance, when he cleaned up his blocks this morning, he received no treats (much to his dismay at first.) Instead, I brought out a special medal that I won from One Busy Moma. It is from Tatutina and it says "Super Hero" on it. I ceremoniously put it over his head and told him that he could wear it for a little while because he did a great job cleaning up his mess. I showed him how clean the floor was and how I could walk on it without stepping on blocks. I told him that he must be growing up because he was taking good care of his toys so they wouldn't get broken. You get the picture... Anyway, he had pride in his work. He told Daddy about his clean floor and showed him the medal. He did the same for his brother. And both of the cats. And his Juno doll. And just about all of his other toys.

He even wore it outside to show off to the neighbors!

At dinnertime, we took the medal off and I put it away. Later, before bed, it was time to clean up the toys again. This time he just did it. No begging or reminding him to stay on task. And, when he was done, he proudly announced to anyone who would listen that HE made the floor all clean. I have periodically used the medal to show him some extra appreciation when he's told me he needed to go potty, after he's helped me cook dinner, when we've finished vacuuming, etc. I don't put it on him every time he does something helpful. It's more of an extra way for me to show my appreciation than it is a reward.

Meanwhile, my oldest has been doing the extra things I ask him to do without asking what he'll get in return.Yeah, REALLY!!! I think that my speaking to him as an adult rather than a kid has helped. He understands that, as he gets older, I am depending on him to do more to help our family function. He's even been asking me if I need anything from the store lately! And, when I ask him to take out the trash, he just does it - no stomping or slamming doors. And - GUESS WHAT - last Sunday morning, I slept in until 10 AM! He came into my room when he heard Little Guy wake up, changed his diaper, made him instant oatmeal, and played with him until I woke up in a panic, "OMG! Where's the baby?! He escaped!!!" - LOL!! He told me he figured it was my turn to sleep in.

While this turn of events is wonderful, I can't help but wonder how long it will last. Will I find myself playing the "If-Then" game again? I hope not but, if memory serves me right, I just may.

How do you get your kids to do things?  
What have you tried that doesn't work?  
What are your thoughts on the rewards system in schools and at home?  

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!


If you're interested in Tatutina, you can check out their medals HERE. They're only $5 each and cover a variety of subjects (we also have the Awesome Artist medal, won from a second giveaway at Hanging Off the Wire!) In addition to the medals, they carry a variety of other products including wooden take-out menu boxes, dog treat boxes, foot stools, and bookends - just to name a few. All of their products are made with non-toxic materials, so don't worry if you find your little one chewing on the leg of her foot stool! LOL

***I did not receive any compensation for this post. I received two Tatutina Medals from two separate blog giveaways. I think they're pretty cool, along with Tatutina's other stuff, and wanted to share this great site with my readers.

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