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When is a Bride a Reward, and when is a Reward a Bribe?

girl-lollipopWe often hear parents say things like, “Junior didn’t want to go to the store, but I bribed him with a lollipop.” We disagree with the assertion that the child was bribed because, by definition, a “bribe” refers to giving something of value to corrupt the behavior of another person.  By giving Junior a lollipop to gain compliance on the trip to the store, you are simply rewarding him for good behavior, which, by definition, is a “reward.”

This bribe/reward confusion is common, and parents often feel conflicted about what they perceive as the “bribing” of their child.  They say, “Junior should behave nicely because that’s what he’s supposed to do!” Oh really? When was the last time you went to a job and didn’t ask for a paycheck? After all, you are supposed to work.

And finances aside, when was the last time a stay-at-home mom had no desire to experience the rich internal rewards of seeing her baby grow and learn?  All living creatures respond to rewards.  Of course, we all respond to different types and levels of rewards (e.g., financial, social, etc.), but the fact remains, that all living creatures respond to rewards. So, “bribe” may be a dirty word, but “reward” is not.

One final word. As for those who would use a lollipop to “re-direct” once a child’s tantrum/resistance is underway, in our opinion that is neither a bribe nor a reward for good behavior. That is a reward for bad behavior, and that puts you on the fast track to creating a demanding, noncompliant child.  To be a “Maximum Strength Parent”, don’t be “held hostage” by your child and “give in” to negative behavior. Also, don’t give “bribes”, but do give rewards to build positive behavior.