Is bribery a parenting tool?

8 Feb

I have a confession (another one). I have promised to buy my eldest son a Playstation if he gets an A in his report card at the end of the year. If he gets a B, he’ll get a PSP.

I know it’s not ideal but in all honesty, bribery has been a useful and effective parenting tool since he was two years of age and I’ve used it on all three of my children. I also use the reverse parenting tool of threatening them if they don’t do as they are told. Bribery and threats…I won’t be writing a parenting book any time soon will I?

It’s just that I want him to try harder at school and as yet I haven’t been able to get a result out of him. I know he can do better…we do his homework together, talk about how important school is and as yet he’s just coasted along talking about how school is boring and he doesn’t like sitting around all the time. In Kindergarten his work was rushed and in Year 1 he struggled to finish his work. He’s one of those kids who’s easily distracted by others. We’ve discussed strategies to politely ask friends to wait until he has finished his work before talking to him but he’s too reserved to do this. He’s also been too shy to ask the teacher for help with things he doesn’t understand and hardly ever tries to answer questions.

Initially after presenting him with my proposal (and I am using the word ‘proposal’ loosely) he was very excited. Thankfully after a week of seeking assurances that I would actually come through with the aforementioned bribes if he got the results he hasn’t mentioned them again.

I also swore him to secrecy. The last thing I want is for him to tell his friends and have them go home and demand the same from their parents. That will make the next P&F meeting a little awkward. I already get stink eye because I’m very involved in the school. Being outed as a parent-by-bribery would make it even worse.

Each day on the way to school I remind him to try to ask at least one question every day and to try and answer one question every day. He was upset after the first day because he wasn’t chosen to answer but I told him that having his hand up was enough. Sure enough at the end of the first week of school he had received a stamp for his table for his efforts. This is the point at which he stopped mentioning my bribes. He was so happy to have been acknowledged and rewarded for his efforts at school that he has kept up his participation ever since.

Actually, I’ve just had a ‘light bulb moment’ – thanks Oprah. I’m not bribing him…I’m rewarding him. At school they are rewarded with stamps, stickers, points and special treatment. So is what I’m doing so bad?

We won’t know how effective my method has been until his final report card at the end of the year and just between you and I, I was planning to get him a Playstation and PSP for his next birthday and Christmas anyway. I just thought I may as well get a little extra effort out of him while I was at it.

Should you do as I have done? I can’t say. All I can say is that I’m aware of the pitfalls…he could start demanding similar rewards for any and all good behaviour. I swear I won’t do it again or I will present it to him differently. I don’t want to have to buy him a car for getting into uni!

My little boy is excited by school this year and I can’t tell you how happy I am that he is finally showing some enthusiasm. Now, I’ll start saving for the ‘rewards’ and hope I haven’t ruined him forever.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

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