I Started Bribing My Kids to Behave

I’ve started bribing my kids to behave. Ok, that’s kind of an overgeneralization. But this bribery gig is working and it’s awesome! Let me explain. (This post is WHY I’m doing it…the HOW is in another post…coming soon).

I’ve been in the anti-rewards system camp for a while now. It just didn’t seem like a good idea to me from all the mixed information I’d read. It seemed like all the “experts” had different opinions, and I wasn’t sure who was right. The loudest cry against reward systems said in essence, “Don’t do it because you’ll ruin your kids and contribute to a generation of spoiled, entitled group of brats expecting more for doing less.” That’s a pretty scary prospect!

And after Anamarie and I interviewed the authors of Nurture Shock, I had a completely new perspective on praising my kids. The research is pretty clear on the negative impacts of telling a child an innocent-seeming “you’re so smart!” Or “good job” or “I’m so proud of you.” The research showing the negative effects of praising kids made me really question the wisdom of rewards systems. So I didn’t do it.

Plus, in all honesty, I stink at keeping up on systems like that. I’m a GREAT starter, but making it to the finish line? Hmm…not so much. And I knew how much work it would be to start and continue a rewards system. I knew it would be a lot of work and the thought of adding one more thing to the heap was a little more overwhelming than I could get on board with.

So what changed my mind? Three things:

  1. The book “the Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg
  2. Summer vacation.
  3. My son experiencing issues with sensory integration disorder.

I’m a right-brained,  free-flowing, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda girl. I don’t like rules much (unless they are convenient at that time) and I have a hard time with rigid structure. My 7-year-old, however, falls in the left-brain way of perceiving the world. So this mama has to step out of her comfort zone, yet again, to give my little Dolphin what he needs to grow.

After reading “The Power of Habit,” I drew a couple of conclusions that made me feel good about implementing a rewards system:

  1. Humans are rewards-driven creatures. Kids, adults, teenagers.
  2. We are all working for some kind of reward. All the time. Period.
  3. If my kids are already working on an internal rewards system, I might as well step in and create a rewards system that is positive and will help them develop positive habits that will benefit them for the rest of their lives…even if I had to use a bit of bribery to do it.

But it’s strategic bribery, based on a bunch of stuff about brains and human behavior and all that science stuff that makes me totally geek out.

What would the authors of “Nurture Shock” say about my work-in-progress rewards system? I’m not sure. But I’ve gotta do something.

I’ll write more about my strategic bribery system I came up with in a future post. Stay posted. (I just want to say post one more time…post. Ok. That’s better. Back to your regularly scheduled programming.)

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