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Bribing Kids vs. Rewarding Kids: Everything You Should Know

Team AckoFeb 8, 2024

By Priyanka Mishra



There's quite a difference between bribing kids and rewarding kids, when it comes to appreciating them for something they have done or something you want them to do.

A few days back my friend’s 2-year-old toddler had a full-blown ‘rolling on the floor bawling’ meltdown at the grocery store on being reprimanded for squishing the oranges. It continued until the time she was offered a chocolate. ‘I bribed her,’ my friend said in a helpless tone. She was indeed helpless, for the reign of control was in the toddler’s hands now who decided how to behave depending on what she wanted.

Why bribing kids is not the right thing

Children are beautiful, but their behaviour needs careful nurturing. Giving them random treats to ‘avoid’ a certain type of behaviour is only going to leave in them a false sense of entitlement. The next time the kid wants something, she will remember how she got it the last time — throw a fit till the time the parents relent. Why not? It always works. The result is helpless parents and an innocent child who ends up being reinforced into a negative line of behaviour.

Rewarding your kids the right way

Instead, as parents, we need to fill them with motivation for an act done right. Like my same friend who clapped every time her daughter recited her ABCDs correctly. It was this praise from her mother, which goaded her daughter to do well in recitation. Clapping can take the form of a candy bar as well, as long as the treat is commensurate with the achievement.

A reward is a way to reinforce positive behaviour and a bribe is a kind of blackmail. While bribing works like a charm in the short run, rewarding reaps dividend in the form of well-rounded children in the future.

Bribing never works in long-term

Studies have shown that bribing towards a targeted behavior doesn’t lead to the behavior getting reinforced in the long term. As soon as the bribe or the tangible gift is removed from the scene, there is no more an incentive for the child. Instead, rewarding with appreciation or a related result works better because then there is a cause (appropriate behaviour) leading to an effect (reward).

An example being, if a child practices her dance steps well, the mother promises to put her into the dance school the child wants. The child learns that working hard on her dance will make her a better dancer and consequently she will get to learn dancing in a reputed school she fancies. This is a perfect example of how reward leads to positive reinforcement and lifelong conditioning of a child.

Parenting is no easy walk for a reason. But with careful planning, we can surely enjoy our toddler’s beautiful years a whole lot better, as they grow into smart, confident and positive young adults.

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only, based on industry experience and secondary sources. It is not a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a qualified expert for health or insurance-related decisions. Content is subject to change, refer to current policy wordings for specific ACKO details.



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