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Bribes to learn - Page 2

post #21 of 26
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post

Miranda, I often agree with you, but not on this one. You examples show a complete lack of understanding of how painfully difficult some things awesome children -- things that are important and just not optional.


Please note, Linda, that all through this thread I have been talking about my own experience with my children and not generalizing to other families. I speak from my experience, about what has worked for my children, about what has been necessary for them. I've said it over and over. "For me.... " or "With my children... " or "I see my job as a parent..." etc.. I was challenged on my own interaction with my own kids: do they never do things they don't want to do? do I use my feelings to get my own way with them? etc. and so I've been defending my own practices and explaining why they work and how they work for me.


My first post in this thread said it in a nutshell: "I have never found the need to use them with my own kids. Sure, sometimes families are able to use bribes and move beyond them without any negative consequences but personally I'd rather find other ways and not risk it. To each her own, though."


The only time I offered up any observation about others is to say that I see many parents who move too quickly to bribes when another form of giving tangibility to the work would suffice. In this I'm speaking from my experience with violin students and their parents: if a kid doesn't want to repeat something 100 times on violin, they pull out the M&Ms. The next week at lesson they tell me about their struggles, so I give them my set of marble-jars to use and the kid turns out to be far happier counting that way.



post #22 of 26

Quoted from Wikipedia:


"Bribery, is an act of implying money or gift giving that alters the behavior of the recipient."


Much of the discussion has lumped rewards and bribes into the same category of extrinsic motivation, which I think is an excellent conversation, but I wonder if there is a difference for some of us between bribes and rewards?


Here is a definition of rewards from the Free Dictionary:


"Something given or received in recompense for worthy behavior."


(Both good, workable definitions, though my old Webster's dictionary keeps bringing the "bribery" definition back to something that encourages dishonesty.)



So, "I'll give you m&ms if you slog through this"= bribe

"You slogged through all that.  Here are some m&ms."=reward



I have been known to occasionally use both, not for stuff around the house or "schoolwork" (biglaugh.gif those who read my posts regularly might laugh at this comment.)  DH is gone to work.  I neeeeeeed to get in the car and go to town and get errands done or for dinner we will be having lentils from that big 10-lb bag that I bought 3 years ago when the family couldn't get enough lentils before they were tired of them and now there is 6 lbs left to go.......)  DD is resisting as she will do.  (We live a long drive from anywhere.  It *is* a big deal and we try to get as much done as as possible.  Not always fun.)  We haven't been to the toy store for a while.  She has plenty in her allowance jar to buy something.  I suggest we make a stop there.  Bribe.


Sometimes we just go to the park, one they haven't been to for months.  Bribe again.


Like was said before, I need to be very careful about this.  A trip to the candy store is a favorite stop after dentist or allergy appointments.  Once it was a reward.  Now they expect it.  Bribe?  Not a big deal, because it is so infrequent anyway.  


Somewhere along the way, rewards can become bribes.  I like to use rewards as a surprise.  Usually they are, even to me.  Suddenly, at the end of a long day of (errands, usually, of course) I feel the desire to do something they look forward to.  Park, french fries, a new puzzle book.


I am self-employed, and I let the girls earn money at certain jobs.  $6/hr for real work that saves me work, but they have to take instructions and corrections from me.  Reward?  $1/hr for busy work.  Bribe?  (Sometimes both girls are dropped off with me so DH can catch up on some much-needed work for 2 or 3 hours.  Important since we have no childcare and HS.)


I avoid using any reward/bribe/extrinsic motivation for something as regular as schoolwork and house work and daily stuff.  My dad would give me $20 for a good report card.  Another friend, straight-A's all the way, said her dad thought they were bribes.  Well, you can bet my bottom dollar I didn't work all quarter/semester for a measly $20.  For me it was a reward.  Then again, her grades were better.....

post #23 of 26

Honestly, a lot of my son's homework is BS. If a reward gets him to draw the picture representing the main themes of the book he read and then cut it into puzzle pieces with facts about the book (no spoilers) on each piece when the task is neither fun nor relevant to him I'm happy. Yes these sorts of projects are great ways for some kids to show what they've learned. They are just a source of stress for him. He'd rather just right a summary or answer some questions about the story.


As he goes to public school there's not much I can do about the creative projects that make up a large part of his grade and produce nothing but stress for him. I can however, give him some incentive to get it done if that means extra Wii time, a prize out of a basket, or points towards a big reward, or M&Ms I really see no problem with that.


As someone else mentioned and I mentioned in my previous post. I use all sorts of tricks to get through tasks I don't particularly enjoy and that are not intrinsically rewarding to me. I view the bribe that helps him find the motivation to do a task pretty harmless. Or at least no more harmful than the bribes I devise for myself.


Schedules work well for me. So we taught our child to use one and gave using that tool a chance. Lists work for my husband so we taught my son to use lists and gave that tool a chance. Rewards to get through a task I don't want to do works for me so I'm giving my son the chance to make that tool work for him. We will continue to give him tools and a chance to use those tools to manage his work.


My son has weak executive function skills. We work on lots of tools to strengthen the skills he needs help with. Motivation to use those skills which are difficult for him is currently one thing that's working for us.


In our case my son asked for the prize system, we worked together to put something together that he thought would work. Throughout the school year we'll work together to tweak the system to work better. Heck I find plenty of great skills he learns from this process alone, let alone what he'll learn from the homework he's being bribed to complete.

post #24 of 26


Edited by dkorovikov - 11/12/12 at 2:56pm
post #25 of 26

Interesting reading through this thread, its helped me clarify a lot for myself, thank you.


I think there's a lot of factors coming into play here though. The simple fact that this kid is in school, and that the homework is something that a third party is imposing. I'm going to hazard a guess as to this one-we're homeschoolers and not in the US so I may have this wrong-but presumably, this is generic, whole class homework which may have no personal relevance to this child? And the child has no real say, presumably, in whether they participate in school. Finally, and most importantly, seems like this kid is pretty young? So my feeling is that these M&Ms could be handy in easing the way through a situation where the child is relatively powerless and needs to jump through some hoops, yet is probably not cognitively up to restructuring the task themselves. Basically, sometimes, for some of us, we need to get our kids to do things that they don't want to do, and which they and we have no real choice in getting them to do, and here, I think using an incentive to help them through it can be fine. But I think I'd talk to even a young child about what I was doing and why,basically explaining that sometimes we have to jump through certain hoops and that sometimes it would be easier to have some short term rewards to help with this. Learning can happen here, just not the learning the school has in mind.


I also do think incentives can actually be very helpful to change behaviour in certain kids. I've used small rewards for myself to change a behaviour. Again, I think the key is to talk to a child and set up the structure in collaboration with them. The point is that the long term reward of a better behaviour can be pretty intangiable, even for an adult, and so using small rewards can help set up better habits. I think this is where incentives really come into their own-for creating a new habit, since habituated behaviour is fairly automatic anyway. (so for example I used to reward myself for studying each night from 9-1 during the week, as much to set up for myself the expectation of doing this as anything else)


I also thoroughly agree with Moominmama on the issue of bribes/rewards/learning to self structure, I really think we need to be so careful about external motivations replacing internal ones. However I do think that bribes (incentives ;-) ) have a role in learning to self structure. Sometimes, to get to where you want to be, you need to do stuff that you really don't want to do and then its fine to give yourself little rewards along the way. Some subjects do require a fair bit of memory work, say, quite early in, to get to competence. The main thing is to know how to do this, so that you can master such a subject if you need to. The absolute key here, IMHO, is that the rewards are self-imposed. I think quite young kids can use self-rewards to motivate themselves when they have a desire to get somewhere.


I kind of think one big thing that went wrong with my education was that I was raised to believe I should always love learning-great, and I still do, and that's an extraordinary gift I was given-but the downside to it was that I kind of assumed that if I wasn't enjoying something, not only was it not really worth learning, but also, I probably could not learn it. I really believed it was impossible to learn something I didn't enjoy, probably until I was in university, where I accidentally took a really dull course in a dull ancient language and had to sort myself out. So one thing I've been quite careful to do with my kids is help them learn how to structure their study habits so that dull, seemingly inaccessible things, become possible. 

Edited by Fillyjonk - 8/1/12 at 1:35am
post #26 of 26

I think it really depends on the kid. That sounds like sort of a cop-out, but I really do think it's pretty individual.


I have one child — a bit quirky — who is absolutely offended and completely turned off by bribes. Offering her a bribe backfires almost every time as she digs in her heels in her opposition to whatever the onerous task at hand is, be it homework or cleaning her room. She is a kid who responds much better to reason and talking through the whys and wherefores about what she's being asked to do. She's just super sensitive to being manipulated via bribes. I have never been big on them, but like most parents I have tried them from time to time and every time it's made it worse. I could offer her M&Ms to do her homework and she would swear she hated M&Ms and never wanted them any more and wasn't going to do her homework, either. If I sit and talk with her about why she needs to do her homework and why she's having trouble getting started she's much more receptive. If I sit and talk through the whys with her and still offer her M&Ms she's offended and shuts down. They just do not work for her at all. 


Rewards (unknown beforehand because if she knows about them they feel like a bribe) work better. She does like praise (I'm not a huge praiser, I did read Alfie) and likes to get goodies after she's done something, but if she senses it's a "you can have X if you do Y" then she will swear she never wanted X anyway even if it's a trip to Harry Potter Land. 


My other dd is a little more open to bribes, but she's not a huge fan. She's also very receptive to reasoning and explanations. 


We definitely do say things like, "you'll have more time to read Harry Potter tonight if you can hurry and get ready for bed", but I think that's more of a natural consequence. 


At any rate, back to the OP, I want my kids to have internal motivation, too. I do like natural consequences (more time for X if you finish that homework now), but I will leave open the possibility that bribes might possibly work best for some hypothetical preschool and elementary school kids. I think in general they're not a great idea, but many kids probably do like them. I also don't think too many M&Ms are a great idea, but I'm sure many kids love them, too. Bribes—even if I didn't have this kid who is adamantly opposed to all forms of bribery—would not be the first strategy I would try. If I exhausted the other possibilities then I would try it and if it was the golden key, I'd certainly consider putting in my parenting toolbox, but it would not be my first choice.

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