It’s Not Like We Have a Briefcase of Cash

Thursday, January 17, 2013

If we call it “talking over the options” is it still considered bribery?

To explain …

Earlier this week, my mother-in-law (and  honorary member of the MMM crew) sent me a link to this New York Times story all about the negative effects of bribing your kids. Yes, bribing. You know, like: “If you stop biting your sister, you can have 10 extra minutes of Angry Birds time.” According to the NYT piece, that is most definitely a bribe, my friends. As the piece outlined it, bribing is “the giving of blunt, uncreative rewards for desired behavior.” And it doesn’t lead to good things either.

“[G]iving children tangible rewards — from money to sweets to an extra hour before bedtime — not only doesn’t work in the long term, it actually has a negative effect on them.  … Daniel Pink, in his best-selling book ‘Drive,’ reviewed four decades of research and concluded that offering short-term incentives to elicit behavior is unreliable, ineffective and causes ‘considerable long-term damage.’ (The main downside: People perform the task merely to get the reward; when the reward is removed, they stop doing it.)


I thought about the main bribe that goes on around this house: If you have five more bites [of dinner], you can have dessert. If you don’t have all five big, proper*  bites, then you won’t have dessert. So make your choice. 

(*It’s key that the bites be proper ones, otherwise this li’l smarty pants will take five incredibly minuscule nibbles, talking about, “See? I took five bites, Mama.” Hmph.)

Of course after reading the piece on the badness of bribes, my next thought was … meh, he’ll be fine.

What about you, do you bribe your kids? And if so, are you worried about the “considerable long-term damage” you might be causing?

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