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January 7, 2022

5 Reasons Why Bribes Don’t Work for 

Bribes strip away internal motivation

Using bribes makes children hyper-focused on external motivators (such as candy, prizes, or treats) instead of internal motivators (satisfaction, pride, and accomplishment). Because children’s motivation is external rather than internal, they become more likely to rush through their work in order to gain their reward. They aren’t taking pride or feeling the same sense of accomplishment as they would if they were working without a bribe Instead you should simple express your pleasure and happiness that they accomplished something or behaved as you expected them to. Toddlers especially seek to please you. When we use bribes we condition our children to think that they are entitled to a reward every time they do something we ask them to do. Expected behaviors like cleaning their room or completing their homework seem more like a choice to them because we have attached an incentive to it. This often backfires when the incentive isn’t motivating enough for our kids, because they may decide that the incentive isn’t worth the work you are asking them to do.

Bribes create a sense of entitlement

Satiation happens when children become too used to getting treats and rewards, and they start to want more and more. It’s like using pain medication… at first it works, but then your body becomes used it and you need more in order to feel the effects. Bribes are exactly the same. With every bribe a child’s entitlement grows stronger, and they become less willing to do what you ask without a bigger reward. When a child is unwilling to do what you’ve asked without a bribe, it means they have become completely dependent on the reward as a source of motivation. Rewards are truly like a drug to children, and if you take them away, expect a withdrawal period.

Bribes teach children to manipulate and control

Bribes are all about control, especially when we use withholding of rewards as a threat. “If you keep screaming in the store, we aren’t going to the movies.” Withholding rewards creates fear in our kids, and that anxiety makes them less likely to be able to behave in the way we want them to. When we use bribes in order to control children’s behavior, kids become more likely to try to use control tactics and manipulate us in the same way.

Bribes don’t prepare children for real life

In the real world, we don’t get rewards for doing things that we are supposed to do. You don’t get a raise for showing up to work, and kids should not get rewards for doing the right thing either. When we use bribes, we do not teach our children to have personal responsibility over their work. As adults they become people who need to be micromanaged, because that’s how they’ve been trained to work.

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