Should You Bribe Your Kid?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Lisa Belkin, New York Times Columnist who writes The Motherlode, talks about why she pays her kids to be good.

Let Us Know: Do you pay your child for good behavior or good grades? And if not, why not?


Lisa Belkin

Comments [45]

Robin M from Astoria

Children should not be rewarded for good behavior or good grades. These are things that should be expected of them. Praise is usually effective in making a child feel proud of his or her behavior or performance, and material rewards often produce undesirable behavior.

Nov. 17 2008 12:54 PM

That's not preparing your child for a world where good workers get sacked and the innocent get bombed. The worst thing about bribery is that it prompts you to appeal to authority. Doing the right thing without reward teaches self-reliance and self-respect.

Nov. 15 2008 12:42 PM
aw from UWS

I have two kids, the oldest is a toddler now, and I do bribe him with stickers for some tasks (when we did potty training at age 2 successfully and to re-teach him to go to sleep by himself after having to share his room all summer in our cramped NY apartment). I suppose I shouldn't use bribery, but it does help, and as another commentor said, these rewards are temporary/finite, but most often the lessons are lasting. I could NOT envision myself actyally paying my kid with money for good behavior (though some may argue there is little difference). I think a lot of what Francesco said is on the mark, unfortunately. I loved the line "be a parent rather than a pimp". An interesting book called "Beyond Time Out" talks about the four basic parenting styles (Pleasers, Pushovers, Forcers, and Outliers) and how none of them are entirely effective because of an imbalance of power (i.e. the kids have too much of it, even in very strict and rigid households). It basically helps parents become effective authority figures. I think that is much better than paying off your kid!

Nov. 14 2008 01:56 PM

Chandresh Desai/37 -- your assertion requires the reader to believe that Indians are superior to Americans. This would be more credible if you proved it.

Nov. 14 2008 01:24 PM
Jennifer Naylor from Glen Cove, NY

A kid who's acting out is a kid who is feeling disconnected from people around him.

Our job as parents is to teach kids to operate in society, to stay connected.

I have had better results when I take the time with my kids to help them explore why they feel so bad. The old, "Use your words" approach to explain their behavior.

Kids act out when they don't have language to talk about why they're hurt, angry or frustrated.

This method takes way more time, but is way more effective and has laid a strong foundation for my kids going into their hormone-fuled teen years when tough feelings are so loaded.

I work hard not to take their behavior personally, so I can have me the clarity I need to help them understand their feelings and to offer my own actions as a possible catalyst: "Are you angry that I'm not spending time with you?".

Rewarding good behavior is fine although not all kids respond to money - mine don't - so I use extra "screen time" or going to bed later. Kids are generally more interested in your attention.

Excellent resources:
- Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson
- Yes, Your Teen is Crazy, by Dr. ____ Bradley.

Nov. 14 2008 12:58 PM
Francesco from brooklyn NY

(continues...)I couldn’t believe my hears.... I live in Park Slope Brooklyn, and I’m surrounded by these little monsters who are in charge of their parents who simply weren’t meant to be parents. Improvised wanna be parents who lack any authority on their kids and can not do anything better than spoil them all the time. Incomplete grown ups who regardless their formal education, are simply incapable to communicate the real meaning of respect (which is respect to the others, to the community, not only to the loved ones) to their kids. I used to love children before moving to the US and to NY in particular. This situation, the complete lack of clue of these parents, is really something to be worried about, much more than the economic crisis or the future in Iraq, this is about the next America we are growing and it looks really really scary!

Nov. 14 2008 12:16 PM
Francesco from brooklyn NY

I couldn’t believe my hears. I was running late, but I froze while listening to the recipe (one more) about how to raise a little monster. And these ladies smiling and giggling and implying “what else can we do?” Well, let me tell you, you could try to be a parent rather than a pimp, a responsible person who takes the time to teach his kids about what is wrong and what is right and who makes them understand that there is no reward for doing what is right (or not doing what is wrong) other than the appreciation of the people who know and love you and a better self esteem (and by the way, is there a bigger reward than this?). I’m appealed by such suggestions that is acceptable (or even conceivable) to pay a kid to stop arguing in the car with his sibling? But I’m even more shocked by the reported result: it works, they stopped arguing!! Really?! Congratulations, you are raising a couple of prostitutes. How come a normal man doesn’t think is flattering to receive a compliment from a prostitute? Well, I don’t think I need to answer, do I? Conversely, I don’t want a kid who decides how to act (and maybe to do so in a pleasant or cheese way) so that she can receive her bribery. continues...

Nov. 14 2008 12:15 PM
dbeck from nyc

Don't struggle or bribe over trying to get them dressed to go. Tell them they'll go in pajamas or whatever they have on (you've got to follow through of course)& they'll be ready on time in the future I'll bet. My daughter at age 2, wore a bathing suit to a birthday party in Jan. once. I thought I'd be able to slip in the bathroom & redress her when we arrived..WRONG. From thence hence we had one clothes rule.. weather appropriate. We shifted that to decent not (sexually) provocative when her shape started changing from that of a little girl. She picks her outfits the night before lays them out ready to be hopped right into & even asks my advise between accessories or this match or that occasionally . If she wants to freeze now I try to just make sure we've both heard a weather report each a.m. Good luck to us all. The hurdles keep coming.

Nov. 14 2008 12:03 PM
Chandresh Desai from NJ

I am a immigrant from India.
In my childhood, I did get pocketmoney. It was what I was entitled for. It was NOT as a reward for good behaviour. I will be PHYSICALLY PUNISHED for bad behaviour (until the age around 10-12).
This country punishes parents for physically punishing kids while desciplining them. Once aware of that fact, isn't that encouraging bad behaviour in the kids ?

Nov. 14 2008 11:56 AM
Leshka from UES

Rochelle (#27) - I would think that positive reinforcement would be a reward after the fact - a child did something good and happens to get a reward for it. Bribery would be the reverse - a child would do something good because he would get a reward for it.

Nov. 14 2008 11:55 AM
lisa from nyc

I was paid 1 dollar for every new word I learned. My father had a cassette tape that I listened to that listed words, meanings and funny was to memorize them. I earned a lot of money AND I still remember some of the words from that tape. I was in high school.

I recently bribed by 4 year old daughter to go to sleep on her own, without me at her side. She got a present every morning. The presents lasted 4 days, but her going to bed on her own continues. It has been GREAT! I got the idea from my neighbor who gave her son a new train every time he went on the potty.

Nov. 14 2008 11:55 AM
Carly from Brooklyn, NY

As a young child I had the unfortunate habit of throwing epic tantrums every time my mother tried to dress me. As she quickly learned, one of two solutions always worked to get me dressed without a fuss: giving me a single M&M candy after we were done, or letting me go out in the stroller in just my diaper. However, this parenting technique was only manifest in this specific area of my young life. Thus I did not grow up with the mindset of expecting compensation for completing basic tasks - just a penchant for chocolate and partial nudity.

Nov. 14 2008 11:53 AM
Leshka from UES

Rochelle (#27) - I would think that positive reinforcement is something that happens after the fact so whatever the child did might happen again. Bribery would be before the fact, where the child would do something good because he is thinking of getting a reward.

Nov. 14 2008 11:53 AM
Sasha from NYC

Would you pay a parent a dollar to stop yelling at or hitting their kid?

Nov. 14 2008 11:52 AM
adeena from Manhattan

When I was 10 my father tried to bribe me to follow a course of study during my summer vacation. He even presented me with a pack of 50 single dollar bills- a fortune to a kid 50 years ago. I was so resentful about his efforts to, as I saw it, control me with money that I refused. Now at 60 I wish that I'd accepted. I'd have had the pleasure of knowing Yiddish.

Nov. 14 2008 11:52 AM
jt from Long Island

To the parents that bribe with money: at what age will you stop and just expect them to do the right thing?

Nov. 14 2008 11:49 AM

Whoops--I meant 50 cents.

Nov. 14 2008 11:48 AM
Kitty from Brooklyn, NY

I rarely had to punish my child for bad behavior as I always made it totally clear what was right and wrong. At a young age we played games that taught the objective of making good choices. That said, when we had potential tantrums I had to figure out what were the triggers. Coat wearing for example, he would wear one when it was called an over-jacket (not a winter coat). When I bribed my son it was always clearly stated that I was offering a bribe and give him a choice of what he really wanted (reward). I found that if I pointed the finger at myself, that I wasn't being inventive enough, then I could find a way to cooperation rather than getting angry for not being listened to.

As far as "paying" for being good, I say a resounding NO to that idea.

Nov. 14 2008 11:48 AM
Rochelle from NJ

My mom used to pay me to read poetry into a tape recorded. (I think she added the tape recored to make it more interesting...I never heard the tapes).

Don't remember the money or what I did with it but remember the poems.

By the way, what exactly is the difference between positive reinforcement and bribery?

Nov. 14 2008 11:47 AM
Mike from NYC

Rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior is how child rearing work, IMO. Are people just offended by bringing money into the equation? I more offended by the idea that people withhold love and affection unless the child behaves.

Nov. 14 2008 11:46 AM

Madonna, the popstar, was given $50 for every A she earned. Interesting in terms of her ambition
with respect to money.

I do think kids need to learn about money in some way--but then again, I never believed in grades:
there was a lot of a pariticular type of mind who could figure out what to do to get an A, that was the opposite of free, or authentic (as a caller said) behavior--in this case intellectual expression.

Nov. 14 2008 11:46 AM
hjs from 11211

now i see why this country is so messed up!

Nov. 14 2008 11:43 AM
Carol from NJ

Easiest and fastest is not the same as best.

Nov. 14 2008 11:42 AM
Gary from UWS

Kids misbehave based upon the culture they live in. Now that there's a "disrespect" culture mostly engendered by television, kids are ruder than ever. Parents need to have a "no tolerance" policy on misbehaving children. First, turn off the crap on TV. Second, make them listen to public radio in their bedrooms. Third, disconnect their Internet connections. Fourth, smash their cell phones to smithereens. Fifth, cut off their food supply.

Nov. 14 2008 11:42 AM
Carol from Manhattan

I really don't like the idea of bribing my children for good behavior. So I started giving them an allowance so that I can "dock" them for NOT doing their chores, talking back when they're asked to do their chores, and, yes, fighting.

Nov. 14 2008 11:42 AM
patti from paterson, nj

Josh.... I love the idea!!! I am totally going to use your payment for artwork idea at home. Thanks!!

Nov. 14 2008 11:41 AM
Susan from Toronto, Ontario

I agree with the caller who gives a choice to her child. Bribes do not work for me with my five year old. In a weak moment, if I offer her money to eat her vegetables or to cooperate she simply says no. If I offer her a choice of activity or a time out, we are usually able to negotiate--though the task often takes longer than I would have hoped. There is usually a reason for her resistance.

Nov. 14 2008 11:41 AM
PJBeee from Ridgewood NJ

Reward/punishment is a part of every individual's life. If you don't pay your taxes, you pay penalties. If you don't get to work on time, you lose pay (or even your job), or need to work overtime. If you don't find shelter, you are cold. Why not treat children as we adults are treated by the real world? The argument that this is somehow not "authentic" holds no water. As a mirror of life itself, this is absolutely authentic.

Obviously a parent shouldn't use this for all situations (the manual for parenting stinks), but it's a valuable tool.

Nov. 14 2008 11:39 AM
Susan Razavi from Washington Heights

It depends on the cognitive development and age. Older children who have symbolic thinking can be appealed to through emotions and the relationship aspects. Younger kids with concrete thinking respond in the short term to being rewarded also for good behavior, but the idea of throwing money at them is not a good strategy for an authority figure. It gives kids the idea that they value the behavior in terms of a negotiation.

Nov. 14 2008 11:39 AM
patti from paterson, nj

i am totally willing to bribe for 2 reasons: for pictures (i.e. the children who smile will get a treat) and sometimes getting through grocery shopping (i.e. children who are quiet and don't ask for things and don't scream will get to have a treat).

I have 3 (soon to be 4) children under 6 and this allows me good family pictures and getting through grocery shopping.

Besides that... yeah, no bribing. I really don't want money or treats to be the motivating factor for the big stuff in life.

Nov. 14 2008 11:37 AM
Larry from Manhattan

Don't be ridiculous. We need to find ways to develop intrinsic motivation...and the undstanding of authority. As a school principal, I struggle with students daily who do not know their place in relation to authority and do not understand that intrinsic motivation shoud be motivation enough. Paying children to behave is the start of creating another generation even less able to be self-motivated to succeed.

Nov. 14 2008 11:36 AM
Chris from NYC

POSITIVELY NOT!! Good behavior is it's own reward. I don't pay my children for good behavior or good grades (although they exhibit both) AND I encourage them to refuse payment from neighbors when they do small favors like collecting the mail if they are away or watering the plants. The last thing I want to teach them is to always have their hand out or, put another way, to pertually be asking "What's in it for me?"

Nov. 14 2008 11:35 AM

i pay my kids to make artwork! i figure it's the one thing artists aren't educated ENOUGH at -- gettin paid. (plus i love their art and want lots of it!)

as far as discipline, i find things they like -- for example, playing on the internet -- and thereby have currency to subtract if needed.

Nov. 14 2008 11:35 AM
l from bk

I think this is terrible. It is a temporary solution, that creates a larger problem. It equates the childs worth with money. As a child it was used in the opposite way for me, having to pay my stepdad cab fare for a ride home, deducting my 'rent' from the child support my dad gave. It causes the childs achievements and mistakes to be equated with money instead of love , respect, and self worth.

Nov. 14 2008 11:34 AM
R from Long Island

Good behavior and good grades are expectations we have for our children. These expectations are clearly communicated to them and rewarded with privileges such as reading time w/mommy and daddy (something my children treasure and hate being taken away), going to the park, riding their bicycles, going on playdates, etc. Throwing money at problems never works.

Nov. 14 2008 11:33 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

I’ll be upfront with it, I don’t have children, so what I’m about to say is through observation and not practice. Ms. Belkin’s article seems to be all about fixes to prior bad parenting. With the exception of potty training, it seems like Ms. Belkin (and/or the children’s father) was too permissive with the children when they were young and now her only recourse is to buy them off. As a result, Ms. Belkin is teaching her children the only incentive in life is monetary gain and not being kind, showing compassion, (the “golden rule”,) or simply behaving in a civilized manner. Congratulations, you are raising the future players in 2028 Wall Street meltdown. Perhaps the worst part is the last sentence when she intimates she is doing this to cope with her decision of becoming a parent.

Nov. 14 2008 11:30 AM
RJ from NJ

paying kids for good behavior. so what do poor people do.

Nov. 14 2008 11:30 AM
Leshka from UES

Sorry, like Peter said. Catilin, I wish I got money for getting high grades. It would have really helped!

Nov. 14 2008 11:26 AM
Leshka from UES

I didn't even get an allowance when I was a kid. The "incentive" to do well was you could get more money later on if you did well in school now. No I didn't have any money to spend on music or candy, etc, but most of the things I *really* wanted I would get from my parents.

Kids don't need money for being good. Like Caitlin said, exceptional acts deserve a reward, but not acts that you're expected to do anyway.

Nov. 14 2008 11:25 AM
Caitlin from Brooklyn

When I was in high school, coming home with good grades always meant a trip to the music store. It was more of a celebration of surviving another quarter and doing well, rather than a bribery thing. Also, when you're 14, it's not always easy to focus on lofty ideals like "education for education's sake" and distant career goals; getting a few CDs made slogging through high school a bit more bearable.

Nov. 14 2008 11:09 AM
Peter Steinberg from Brooklyn, NY

While I'm not yet a parent, I don't think paying for good behavior is a good idea at ALL.

It's one thing to reward (or bribe) your child for the occasional exceptional act. But if they don't learn at home that the "good" behavior is a the norm that is to be expected at all times, what kind of misguided misfits will populate our world in a generation?


Nov. 14 2008 10:55 AM
The Truth from Atlanta/New York

Absolutely NOT.

An excellent career and a comfortable life is incentive and payment enough!

Encourage them to do well in school!

1000 other reasons to reward a child will arise in their lifetime.

Nov. 14 2008 10:44 AM
SF from NYC

Parents are roll models as well as teachers. What kind of signal does paying your kids to keep quite send to them at a young age?

Nov. 14 2008 10:35 AM
SF from NYC

I would not be inclined to pay my children for good behavior or good grades. Children should not be taught to respond to money. Just be good for goodness sake!

Nov. 14 2008 10:19 AM
Gianni Lovato from Huntington,NY

Positively not. Don't we have already enough misguided attempts at influencing and legislating morality by artificial means?
Besides: who would want to see the emergence of an unavoidable "children union" demanding higher wages and later bedtime hours?

Nov. 14 2008 10:17 AM

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