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#1 of 26 Old 07-21-2012, 06:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I have a friend who recently told me that she bribes her kids with m&m's to read and do other school work with them. Her kids are in preschool and lower elementary....

I don't like the thought of this because I want my kids to internally enjoy learning and have a drive to learn and read outside of me giving them m&m's after every page.

Thoughts?
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#2 of 26 Old 07-21-2012, 09:26 PM
 
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sometimes bribes are not waht they seem like.

 

sommetimes you NEED to bribe your child for them to start. 

 

and then they take off without even looking for the bribe anymore.

 

but it depends what the bribe is for.

 

is it for them or is it for you.

 

if its for you so you can get your way, then yup bribes do nothing. they are ultimate failures.

 

but if you really know and know it will help your child then bribes are not that bad.

 

sometimes just the structure and the repeatition is really helpful to start good habits in the chld.


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#3 of 26 Old 07-22-2012, 09:52 AM
 
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I think it is good that your friend has found a way to motivate her kids that works for hr. I wouldn't do a lot of candy but i have no problem giving four or five small m &ms for homework completion. I think making homework positive is important. It can get negative very easily. Being intrinsically motivated to learn and being intrinsically motivated to do homework (or learn something you aren't interested in) ate two different things ime. My dd is very motivated to learn about many things but grammar rules, math, and spelling haven't been among them and she has no motivation to do homework. I am not above using a bribe to sweeten the deal when intrinsic motivation isn't there for something that needs to get done.
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#4 of 26 Old 07-22-2012, 10:29 AM
 
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Not quite the same thing, but my son will have a basket of cheap toys and treats to choose from once he finishes homework this year at school. We did this in 2nd grade and it did help him want to get started on homework and get it done. He's now in 5th and we haven't used it the last two years. However, last year we had a lot of issues with homework that wasn't getting done and him falling behind. During discussions this summer he told us that some positive incentives to get the work done on a daily basis would help and he asked for the prize bucket back. So we'll be returning to giving him a treat or prize for the completion of daily homework.

 

I view it little different from the small games we play as adults to motivate ourselves. Sometimes at work I'll promise myself a walk outside for finishing a certain amount of work, or a trip to the candy machine, or a switch to a task I find less boring.

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#5 of 26 Old 07-22-2012, 10:50 AM
 
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I think bribes are risky and 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.

 

Miranda

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#6 of 26 Old 07-24-2012, 06:32 PM
 
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I bribe myself into doing things all the time;  even things I know that I will enjoy doing once I get going (in my case, working out)

 

It's nice to say that you only want your kids to be internally motivated--and easy to say if you have kids that are (or you yourself are).  Some people are not (for various reasons, not all involving crappy parents who gave them an m&m or a treat after homework or whatever was done).  I wish that I had used external motivations to help my DD establish good habits when she was a preschooler;  it would have saved us both suffering later.

 

I was an internally motivated kid academically.  My DD is so...not.  This aspect of her is absolutely unfathomable and unimaginable to me, I cannot relate to it.  But I had to, and had to be willing to let go of my own hangups and stuff in order to find ways to get her to move beyond that.  Not motivating a kid who really does need to be motivated isn't too painful when they're little, but as they get older, at least in my experience, it has significant impacts on the child that are extremely unfair and unwise to not deal with.

 

Plus, what you are talking about seems more about habit reinforcement than "building a great love for learning".  Sometimes you need to build habits or establish habits before the great love of whatever can truly take hold.  As always, though, YMMV.
 

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#7 of 26 Old 07-24-2012, 08:06 PM
 
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I was opposed to rewards back before I raised kids ( mine are now teens) and if I only had my second dd I would still feel that way, and be quite smug about it.

However, my life experience is that some things are more diificult for some kids than others, and that when the water hits the wheel I will offer rewards, up to and including iTunes cards.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#8 of 26 Old 07-25-2012, 07:24 AM
 
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We've used rewards selectively and with success to help the kids over a particular hump or fear. In those cases, they really needed something else to focus on and a reward was something positive to attach to whatever risk they felt they were taking. 

 

M&M's for chores or activities they weren't already motivated for would never have stuck past the initial novelty of chocolate in the house.  


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#9 of 26 Old 07-25-2012, 08:07 AM
 
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No, I never bribed my kids. I sometimes (rarely) do a small treat after.. if they have given effort of something that was hard for them... but to say up front... "I'll give you x if you do x". No way. I don't get a bribe for all the chores I do.
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#10 of 26 Old 07-25-2012, 08:44 AM
 
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The original question was about bribes for learning-related work, not chores. The latter could be considered payment for work done -- work that serves others in the family, work that might not have intrinsic value for the child. While I prefer not to reward kids for chores either, I think bribes for learning are a stickier situation. The point of learning is to help yourself; why should someone else pay you for working for yourself? When my kids have hit big obstacles and have needed or asked for something to help them over the hump, I've always been able to find a way that isn't a bribe: for example helping them set up their own contingency systems within their own lives and resources that structure the work and make it more tangible to them. My son once used his own money to buy candy which he set aside in a drawer. Every time he practiced his viola, he coloured in that day on the calendar, and dispensed himself a candy. Totally his system, totally effective, and totally free of the risks I see in bribing. It was his candy: there was nothing to stop him from eating it all some afternoon. But he chose to use it to structure his practicing. 

 

Now I admit that my kids' LDs are relatively mild, and we've been lucky to be able to homeschool and therefore get a lot of freedom to adjust expectations more in keeping with developmental timetables, awaiting internal motivation. But I do think that parents often move to bribes when they see that structure and tangibility are needed, when a chart, counting gimmick or self-administered system of contingencies would work just as well. I teach violin and have helped a lot of parents and children find alternative systems to help motivate and structure daily practicing. So far (touch wood) bribes haven't been necessary.

 

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#11 of 26 Old 07-25-2012, 09:43 AM
 
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Learning something you didn't care to learn equals "chore" to me. My post was fine.
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#12 of 26 Old 07-25-2012, 10:01 AM
 
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I think it's really a situational thing. My youngest is the one for whom short-term rewards systems were beneficial. He has an over-active gag reflex. Most foods would feel like they were choking him in the early years. By 5, he developed an intense fear of new foods. With some OT and a short-term reward system, we were able to get him to a point where he would take a bite of a new food, wash it down with a gulp of chocolate milk or even soda (which was the reward) and then realize what he did and be proud of himself. It allowed him to focus on something positive instead of being overwhelmed by the fear that he'd choke. The boy loved the water but he hated lessons, resented them, had an irrational fear of them. He wouldn't learn with us. He fought learning within a class. The issue was, inability to swim did not stop him from taking risks around water (and in our area, there are constant pool parties and beach days.) So, when he was almost 10, we bribed him with a trip to the water slide park with a buddy if he could learn to swim across the pool. It worked and I don't feel sorry for using an external motivator in that situation at all. Is it different from giving a kid M&M's to read a book or do their homework? Well, in my eyes it is but I'm sure others would see no difference at all. 


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#13 of 26 Old 07-25-2012, 06:58 PM
 
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If you don't want to use external motivators then don't...but to be honest I really don't get the snottiness towards people/parents that do choose to use external motivators.

 

I see an m&m and a sticker as the same thing--but probably working for different kinds of kids.  I bribe/reward myself for getting hated tasks done by not allowing myself computer time until I do them.  It's what works for me.  Why should anyone else care what system I have in place for motivating myself (certainly I was never rewarded or bribed for anything growing up, just punished for deviations, and by coincidence I never learned how to manage my time well or stay on task either due to my personality--it's something I've had to learn on my own, through...wait for it...rewards/bribes)?

 

And why should anyone care if someone else gives their kid an m&m for reading for an hour?  It doesn't mean you have to do it too.  It doesn't mean you're a better parent if you don't (IMO).  Find what works for your own kid (or thank FSM that your kid doesn't need that sort of thing--it's probably not a result of your parenting per se), let other people find what works for theirs (also probably not a result of their parenting) and let it slide.

 

I do not see why anyone should care what reward system (or not) other people use with their kids to reinforce task completion.  I know lots of people who "potty trained" their kids with m&ms and stickers and not a one of those now-5th graders refuses to poop in the potty unless they get a candy or a sticker.  Like anything else, once something becomes a habit, you can also back off on the reward/bribe/Horrendous Parenting Crutch.  :)
 

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#14 of 26 Old 07-25-2012, 08:15 PM
 
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I want my daughter to do her homework and do her best. So does she...most of the time.  But sometimes she fools around and puts it off and doesn't focus.  We don't use candy as a bribe, but I will remind her the sooner she gets finished, the longer she has to play games and have a snack with Daddy before bedtime.  Fool around and maybe you won't have time for a game.  That's not a punishment, that's just the way it is.  Finish up and do a good job the first time and you can probably fit in several games.

 

I hated homework and my parents never checked up or made me doing.  Despite easily testing into gifted programs, I never had good grades.  I never developed any kind of study habits at all.  Even in high school and college I would wait till the last minute on everything and unless something was interesting to ME, I never put in any effort (English papers and history?  All my focus.  Math and science?  No motivation to study and no idea where to start). 

 

We don't want homework to become a battle and we do want her to do her best and make good grades (she has already tested into the gifted program so like me, she CAN make good grades - if she wants to).  I hope that by establishing good habits and pride in her achievements early on, she will continue on that path.

 

My daughter's currency is not M&Ms.  I guess I would try that if necessary.  Being "internally motivated" is great but it's a lot to expect of a preschooler. 
 

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#15 of 26 Old 07-26-2012, 07:52 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Tigerchild View Post

I bribe myself into doing things all the time;  even things I know that I will enjoy doing once I get going (in my case, working out)

 

It's nice to say that you only want your kids to be internally motivated--and easy to say if you have kids that are (or you yourself are).  Some people are not (for various reasons, not all involving crappy parents who gave them an m&m or a treat after homework or whatever was done).  I wish that I had used external motivations to help my DD establish good habits when she was a preschooler;  it would have saved us both suffering later.

 

Not motivating a kid who really does need to be motivated isn't too painful when they're little, but as they get older, at least in my experience, it has significant impacts on the child that are extremely unfair and unwise to not deal with.

 

Plus, what you are talking about seems more about habit reinforcement than "building a great love for learning".  Sometimes you need to build habits or establish habits before the great love of whatever can truly take hold.  As always, though, YMMV.

 

Agreed. And often times what they need or are required to do isn't what they love shrug.gif. I also use external motivations for myself to get through dull tasks (like watching a TV show while folding the laundry) and even to get through my own homework.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post

I was opposed to rewards back before I raised kids ( mine are now teens) and if I only had my second dd I would still feel that way, and be quite smug about it.
However, my life experience is that some things are more diificult for some kids than others, and that when the water hits the wheel I will offer rewards, up to and including iTunes cards.

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#16 of 26 Old 07-26-2012, 12:32 PM
 
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The original question was about bribes for learning-related work, not chores. The latter could be considered payment for work done -- work that serves others in the family, work that might not have intrinsic value for the child. While I prefer not to reward kids for chores either, I think bribes for learning are a stickier situation. The point of learning is to help yourself; why should someone else pay you for working for yourself? When my kids have hit big obstacles and have needed or asked for something to help them over the hump, I've always been able to find a way that isn't a bribe: for example helping them set up their own contingency systems within their own lives and resources that structure the work and make it more tangible to them. My son once used his own money to buy candy which he set aside in a drawer. Every time he practiced his viola, he coloured in that day on the calendar, and dispensed himself a candy. Totally his system, totally effective, and totally free of the risks I see in bribing. It was his candy: there was nothing to stop him from eating it all some afternoon. But he chose to use it to structure his practicing. 

Now I admit that my kids' LDs are relatively mild, and we've been lucky to be able to homeschool and therefore get a lot of freedom to adjust expectations more in keeping with developmental timetables, awaiting internal motivation. But I do think that parents often move to bribes when they see that structure and tangibility are needed, when a chart, counting gimmick or self-administered system of contingencies would work just as well. I teach violin and have helped a lot of parents and children find alternative systems to help motivate and structure daily practicing. So far (touch wood) bribes haven't been necessary.

miranda

It sounds like you are saying you don't require your kids to do things they don't want to do (because they aren't internally motivated to do them) and so have never needed to use bribes but you are still sure they are too harmful to use for unspecified reasons. I think not teaching kids how to push through challenges and find some sort of motivator is more harmful than teaching kids to reward themselves for getting through a difficult and tedious task. Ime homeschooling is a very different situation with different pressures than schooling outside of the home. It is very easy to put things off because your child resists to much when you homeschool because you are in charge and control the consequences, it isn't that easy when you aren't.
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#17 of 26 Old 07-26-2012, 01:46 PM
 
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It sounds like you are saying you don't require your kids to do things they don't want to do (because they aren't internally motivated to do them) and so have never needed to use bribes but you are still sure they are too harmful to use for unspecified reasons. 

 

No, you're making a big leap there. 

 

I believe that my fundamental work as a parent boils down to two big lessons I need to impart to my kids: empathy and the deferment of gratification. I have worked very hard at both those lessons since their earliest years and at this point (youngest is 9) they seem to be well along the way. Both lessons provide darned good reasons to do things that might not be intrinsically enjoyable. For example: my youngest wants to play in a string quartet. She has learned well enough the lesson about deferring gratification that she is willing to do months and years of daily slogging through sight reading drill, scales and arpeggios on her violin. She sees that this work gets her closer to her her gratification, even though it takes a long time. She does the work, even though she doesn't particularly enjoy it. Another example: my kids do the dishes after dinner. Why? Because they know that even if the clutter of dirty dishes doesn't bother them, it drives me crazy, and they care about my feelings. They accept that families help each other, because families care about each other. That's empathy at work. Ask them if they like doing dishes and you'll get a resounding no. Ask them why they do them anyway and they'll likely tell you that it wouldn't be fair to leave that job to me, since I do most of the cooking and baking, and do at least my share of the other work around the house. They'd say that eventually the dishes have to be washed to be used again, and it's just more polite to do that inevitable washing on a schedule that doesn't irritate the heck out of their mother.

 

Alfie Kohn collated a lot of the research on the use of rewards in his book "No Contest." I was actually very reward-friendly before reading that book but the research I read, presented there and elswhere (Deci's "Why We Do What We Do" about human motivation was also very helpful) convinced me that it was worth steering clear or rewards and trying everything else first. And I've never needed to move beyond "everything else." 

 

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#18 of 26 Old 07-26-2012, 02:41 PM
 
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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.

I think is great that you've taught your kids basic character traits by things like washing dishes, but it is clear to me that you have no idea what some parents are dealing with.

Alfie Kohn didn't raise a child with autism.
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but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#19 of 26 Old 07-26-2012, 03:43 PM
 
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No, you're making a big leap there. 

I believe that my fundamental work as a parent boils down to two big lessons I need to impart to my kids: empathy and the deferment of gratification. I have worked very hard at both those lessons since their earliest years and at this point (youngest is 9) they seem to be well along the way. Both lessons provide darned good reasons to do things that might not be intrinsically enjoyable. For example: my youngest wants to play in a string quartet. She has learned well enough the lesson about deferring gratification that she is willing to do months and years of daily slogging through sight reading drill, scales and arpeggios on her violin. She sees that this work gets her closer to her her gratification, even though it takes a long time. She does the work, even though she doesn't particularly enjoy it. Another example: my kids do the dishes after dinner. Why? Because they know that even if the clutter of dirty dishes doesn't bother them, it drives me crazy, and they care about my feelings. They accept that families help each other, because families care about each other. That's empathy at work. Ask them if they like doing dishes and you'll get a resounding no. Ask them why they do them anyway and they'll likely tell you that it wouldn't be fair to leave that job to me, since I do most of the cooking and baking, and do at least my share of the other work around the house. They'd say that eventually the dishes have to be washed to be used again, and it's just more polite to do that inevitable washing on a schedule that doesn't irritate the heck out of their mother.

Alfie Kohn collated a lot of the research on the use of rewards in his book "No Contest." I was actually very reward-friendly before reading that book but the research I read, presented there and elswhere (Deci's "Why We Do What We Do" about human motivation was also very helpful) convinced me that it was worth steering clear or rewards and trying everything else first. And I've never needed to move beyond "everything else." 

MIranda

In your first example your child is internally motivated and in the second I don't think doing things to avoid your mother's irritation us any better than doing them to get a tangible item. The tangible item is at least blatant in a way that using emotions to get your way isn't. I am sure your kids are just fine but i am also sure that mine is too and that the op's friend's kids will also be fine because there are many right ways to raise a chil
child.

Kohn writes some great stuff but he is a fringe writer who speaks in extremes. I think balance is important in this area as in any other. I also think the approach people take is going to vary a lot depending on many things and that this is an issue more relevant to mother's who have children with homework. If we were talking chores I would agree that bribes aren't the way but there are other things at play for school issues. I am sure there are many homeschooling issues I can't speak on because there are things at play that are beyond my experience.
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#20 of 26 Old 07-26-2012, 04:11 PM
 
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In your first example your child is internally motivated and in the second I don't think doing things to avoid your mother's irritation us any better than doing them to get a tangible item. The tangible item is at least blatant in a way that using emotions to get your way isn't.

 

Do you mean that because she wants to play the violin, she has internal motivation? I know lots of kids who want to play the violin who don't want to practice. My example could just as easily have been about long division: she wants to master long division because having a solid handle on math will give her the independence and competence she wants as an adult. The trick is to find the reason the work needs to be done (there has to be a reason out there somewhere!) and help your child connect the dots. The capacity for internal motivation can be nurtured. It comes more or less easily, sooner or later, in various children: my own family provides plenty of evidence of this variability. As with all things in parenting, patience is sometimes required. But it's not that she IS internally motivated. It's that she's internalized the connection between good work today and payoff of some sort way down the road. That's one of the main places internal motivation comes from.

 

I do not "use emotions to get my way." If you ask my kids they would tell you that I almost never get angry. I have authentic feelings of irritation when the kitchen is messy but I'm a very introverted person so I tend to keep them to myself. I don't spew them out verbally or through body language -- I just get up early and quietly clean up the kitchen. However when we have family meetings I've occasionally expressed that I'm sometimes frustrated that more than my share of the kitchen cleanup falls to me. (Just as my kids express their own frustration over things: the table is level at meetings.) We express our feelings in non-judgmental ways so that we can understand each others' points of view better and find mutually agreeable solutions. Empathy is the crucial ingredient here. And the only way kids learn to understand others' points of view is to hear what they are. The sharing of authentic feelings and points of view is very important, IMO.

 

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#21 of 26 Old 07-26-2012, 06:15 PM
 
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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.

 

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#22 of 26 Old 07-28-2012, 08:27 AM
 
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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.....


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#23 of 26 Old 07-29-2012, 04:47 PM
 
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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.


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#24 of 26 Old 07-31-2012, 02:21 PM
 
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If you're a parent of a child ages 4-18, I would really appreciate you participating in my brief online study. Copy/paste the link below for more information:

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#25 of 26 Old 08-01-2012, 01:16 AM
 
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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. 


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#26 of 26 Old 08-01-2012, 07:51 PM
 
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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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