Bribing Kids--Good, or more harm than good?

Do you bribe your kids (or know of others who do) to get good grades, behave, etc., or is it something you expect them to do without rewards? If you don’t bribe/reward them, do you use something else?

Historically speaking, I’ve not used bribes/rewards in the past with the Hallgirls, and Hallboy is no exception to this. In the past year, the problem with Hallboy completing and turning in his homework has come to a head, so much so that he was literally flunking every single one of his classes simply because he wasn’t turning in his homework. This past semester I took away all of his electronic items (computer games, Game Cube, Gameboy) and he lost the opportunity to have sleep overs with his friends. The condition was that the electronics would stay packed up in the attic until the next marking period and if the grades were not B’s or higher, all of it would go.

Hallboy put forth a good effort, and this was reflected in his grades. His pre-algebra went from a high D to an A+ in one marking period. His other classes were B’s, with a few C’s thrown in, so I compromised. Still no sleepovers, and no electronics back, but they would remain in the attic until he pulled all grades up to B’s. (There was still an absence of turning in homework on his progress reports.) He has until next semester to pull everything up to at least a B.

It never crossed my mind to offer him money or anything else if he passed his classes. I’ve explained to him that going to work is MY job and going to school is HIS job, and that I expect him to get good grades, just like my boss expects me to do my work. I don’t do my work, I get fired. He doesn’t do is work, he looses priviledges.

But paying him for grades? No way.

Likewise, when the Hallkids were little, I expected them to behave themselves when we went out in public (like to eat). The first was a verbal warning. “Do we need to go to the Ladies Room?” --the Ladies Room is different than the Bathroom. The bathroom is the place one goes to potty, the Ladies Room (although located in the same room) is the place one goes when one is in trouble. The second was a trip to the Ladies Room for a “talking to”, that included a warning, “The next time we come in here, you will get a spank!” (which was a swat on the butt). I can think of only two times in a 23 year history of parenthood of three kids when I needed to take a child to the Ladies Room for the third time.

I don’t go quid pro quo, because I think you’re right that the consequences of studying yield their own reward - better grades and parents off your back. But if WhyKid has an exceptionally good report card, I might make his favorite dinner and mention that we’re “celebrating” his hard work.

I’m not into reward vs. punishment as much as natural consequences. One of the consequences of trying hard and doing good work is it makes Mom happy, and when Mom is happy with you, she’s more likely to make sloppy joes than fish!

He gets money when he’s gone “above and beyond” what his duties as a member of the family are. He’s expected to take out the trash, so he doesn’t get paid for that. He’s expected to watch his little sister for 20 minutes here and there while I run to the store, so he doesn’t get paid for that. Giving up a whole Friday night to babysit while I go out with their father is another story - that’s beyond being a big brother and into my job - taking care of the kids. That he gets paid for.

And, of course, it works the other way, too. He gets money for things he needs, and to some extent, things he wants, just because he’s a member of the family. I’ll hand him money every so often or tell him to keep the change if he’s gone to the store for me. It’s very informal in our house, but it works well. He’s always been a saver, so he doesn’t need a formal allowance to learn budgeting and saving.

I’ve always felt that kids should not be paid for chores or grades, because those are things they ought to be expected to do. However, this year I have begun paying my kids ten dollars per report card A. One reason is that they have a stepbrother and stepsister who get that deal. Another reason is that they don’t get allowances and I’m hoping that my kids will decide to work hard, save, and budget. waits for laughter to subside

I’m not sure it’s working. For one thing, there are some flaws in the system as it stands now. I don’t much like paying ten bucks for an A in Art when there’s a D in Math on the same report card. Also, the kid in fourth grade makes fifty bucks a pop, no sweat, then spends it all fast. The high school kid does harder work and makes far less money.

I never got money for grades, but many of my friends did. I was always so jealous that they got paid for what I was expected to do for free. (Incidentally, I always did fairly well in high school, anyway, but still!)

My parents gave us small rewards. It wasn’t a bribe, by any means, as we would have done well in school without it. It was more like my parents thinking that in the real world, you get paid for what you do and occasionally you’ll get a bonus. So it was a way of recognizing what we did with a nearly token amount. It was enough to buy a CD or go see a couple movies or something like that without being enough to seem like a bribe.

What Monica said. My parents would have gone broke paying me for grades. :wink:

I got books for grades, on quarterly report cards. One A=one paperback book. (A hardback would be two or three paperback book credits). Lower grades took away books from the total–a B would be -1 book, a C would be -2, and so on.

Of course, if I’d received cash, I would have used it to…buy books.

I’ve always disliked paying for grades, well actually getting paid for grades since the little one is fourteen months. I actually rebeled somewhat and didn’t get the best grades. I was always told, make the honor roll and get money, I never did. My father and even a great aunt of mine kept telling me all the way through college with good grades I’d get money.

I made Dean’s list once, and that was while taking the hardest classes, never told anyone.

I don’t understand the reward system at all. When they given them out at work I either don’t accept them, or they get put in the drawer. I do my work because I want to, not because I expect some sort of reward for it. I wonder if my wife will be the same way or she’ll want to give the kids money for doing school work.

I don’t understand why parents are so reluctant to pay kids for good grades. In fact, I don’t quite get the whole “bribery is bad” thing, because done properly, it is just a demonstration of the way the world works in a microcosm: c’mon, think about it: what reward to I get, as an adult, if I work hard? Well, hopefully job satisfaction, prestige, and all that, but basically … I get money. And if money isn’t important to me, I can choose to focus my efforts to get the rewards that ARE important to me.

Thoughtful bribing of kids by parents who are paying attention (and not just looking for easy solutions) seems about the same to me: parents figure out what is important to their kids, and figure out what it is they want the kids to do. Then explain “if A, then B.” (It need not be money that is the bribe, unless that’s what floats your kids’ boat.)

I was never bribed with money to get decent grades; my parents said “doing well should be its own reward.” I assumed I’d raise my own child according to the same mantra, until I actually had one (a child, not a mantra). Then I said “wait a minute … I do all kinds of crap in my job that is absolutely NOT ‘its own reward’ but I do it for other rewards, like my paycheck. Why should I try to make my kid believe that, say, studying for a spelling test is any different?”

But, that’s just how I see it. I would never criticize a parent who was uncomforable with that strategy, and had an alternative that worked for their own family.

And I’ve never paid CairoSon for good grades; it wouldn’t motivate him. But I’d pay cash for good grades if were an effective stragey.

You might like to read Punished by rewards by Alfie Kohn, which claims that giving someone a reward for any behavior is inherently destructive. He cites a lot of psychological studies and dislikes Skinner. The basic idea is that anytime you offer a reward for something, you are making the something less attractive (after all, it can’t be much fun if you need to be bribed to do it) and focusing the attention on the reward (thus lowering the quality of the behavior). You also make it more likely that the person will abandon the behavior when the rewards stop. It works even when the behaviors and rewards are things like coloring with markers and crayons, or eating M&Ms and marshmallows.

I have personally never believed in paying for grades or offering bribes in general, but the Kohn book showed me a few things that made me think more about it.

I never got money for good grades in elementary school or middle school (I mean, how hard is it to get a good grade when you’re that young anyhow? Plus it’s not like kids have bills at that age!) but in High School my parents would give me $10 for every A. I had 7 classes a semester and if I got all A’s, that would be $70 which is how much my cheap-ass liability insurance was for my junky car. So basically I made good grades so my parents would pay my car insurance. My brother drives that car now and he does the same thing with his money. Of course, if we didn’t get the $70 we would just have to pay the difference or whatever.

I have always been very concerned with money though so I was a ridiculous saver all throughout High School, ending up with over $6,000 to help pay for my college. I think teaching kids good ways to manage their money is far more important than just handing them money whenever they need it.

Even Skinner knew that intermittent rewards schedules are more effective than constant ones. If you train a rat (or a person) that behavior A results in reward B every time, then stop giving the reward, the rat will stop doing the behavior fairly quickly. If behavior A results in reward B only sometimes, he’ll keep on trying, sure that the next repetition will yield the reward. As every Psych101 teacher likes to point out, the slot machines are a perfect intermittent rewards training device.

There is some confused terminology here. “Bribe” refers to a situation where the reinforcer is given before the behavior, in hopes of eliciting the behavior. There are all kinds of scientific studies of everything from racoons to politicians showing that this doesn’t work. “Reward” refers to a situation where the reinforcer follows the behavior. Again, myriads of studies (yes, starting with Skinner) show that this does work.

WhyNot, intermittent rewards are more effective than consistent ones, but consistent rewards are more more effective than no rewards.

phall0106, you compare grades to work, and indicate that this is simply what is expected, but would you continue to work if you no longer received a paycheck?

As several people have mentioned, there are all kinds of rewards for getting good grades, from not having your parents harassing you, to being allowed to stay out later, to having Happy Mommy do nice things, to receiving money. I would be amazed if at least one of these wasn’t on offer for every child.

I’m a pretty strict behaviorist, and having said that, my take on it is this: I reward behavior I like. If I wanted The Punkylet to get good grades, I would reward good grades. (Actually, “good grades” is lumping, I would split it and reward the component parts of good grades - keeping an accurate list of assignments and due dates, scheduling time to work on homework, having a rough draft of a term paper by a certain date, making flash cards for facts needing to be memorized, etc.) I would continue to reinforce each step until it seemed set, then move it to intermittent reinforcement. (I.e., reward each days assignments being completed until they were all completed every day for three weeks, then start checking them randomly, and then move to the next most difficult step with the same pattern.)

I figure that these things will become habits, and habits eventually become character. A child who is rewarded for being on time will become a punctual person, even when the rewards are faded. A child who is shaped into the habits of effective study and homework preparation, will be a child who gets the best grades he/she is capable of.

At this point, non-behaviorists usually complain that I don’t have a child, I have a robot. I note however, that I use this system with The Punkylet, and I’m very happy with the results so far, and she is far from robotic.

Since you asked, that’s what I think.

I’m a behaviorist as well. That being said, I have learned that you have to keep altering the program, tweaking, changing, modifying, adding and subtracting techniques to your arsenal.

There is no perfect solution or method for kids. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.

We do use intermittant rewards. Random - “hey, that was great, let’s give you a treat.” Some “thanks for taking out the trash, here is a quarter.” Some “Mom, I took out the trash, can I have a quarter.” - to which sometimes the answer is yes, and sometimes its no.

This isn’t because we are philosophical behaviorists - its because we are lousy at consistancy in our household. So sometimes there are rewards and sometimes there aren’t.

I do think that sometimes there need to be rewards - because that’s how the real world works.

What’s described in the first line of the OP is not a bribe. It’s a reward.

If you call it a bribe, you’re implying that what you want the kid to do is bad.

Rewards are a perfectly valid motivational tool. One of the reasons I was a “bad student” (in this case, a student with lower grades than would have been possible with proper motivation; I still had above-average grades) was that I received the same response from my parents whether I got 9.75, 8 or 4 (on a 0-10 scale, with pass at 5); the response for a 10 was about as bad. Students whose parents kissed the child’s feet no matter what their grades were also got unmotivated children. Teachers did give me differential responses, but your biggest source of feedback as a kid is your parents - no amount of praise from a teacher will mean as much as a “God, why can’t you do anything right” from your parents.

Parents whose response is different depending on how you did and why you did that way are doing the very important job of teaching their children about consequences. The consequence of “being able to go to a better school” is a looooooong way away, when you’re 5, 10 or even 15 (remember when 20 was old?); a reasonable physical reward which is obtainable if and only if you met reasonable preset goals is perfectly fine. After all, isn’t that the whole concept behind the bonuses given by companies to their adult employees?

I’m a fan of rewards. My kids are really young so I’m a novice at this, but I’m finding that one of the tricks is to keep the reward modest, something that’s not terribly exceptional or out of the ordinary.

Years ago one boss told me that the positive effects of a pay raise don’t last all that long. That’s consistent with my work experiences - if I was doing a job I hated, being paid more to do it didn’t cause me to suddenly like the tasks.

phall0106, you seem to have hit on a reward that interests Hallboy. Since it’s working, there’s no need to add money to it. I would have been more motivated by “a book for every 9-10” than by any money… after all, until I was in my teens anything beyond 100pta was just “a lot”, yet 100pta wasn’t enough to buy a book.

Edward the head’s parents never figured out which rewards would have worked with him. “Getting off his case” sounds like a good WAG from where I’m sitting :stuck_out_tongue:

I think what we’re (okay, I’m) saying is that the “reward” of hard work, from a behavioral stance, is getting an A. There’s no sense in rewarding the A because it is the reward, not the task. The task was doing the homework and turning it in and studying, for which you are rewarded with an A. Does that make sense? I agree with you that it’s a HUGE task for a little kid, which is why we break it down and give smaller rewards - one on every homework assignment, one on every test. If a kid needs the tasks broken down even further to learn them, then that’s what you do. You can change the reward system, or supplement the school system, but in theory, anyway, the grade system is a reward system. Like any symbolic reward system, it only works if the subject values the reward.

I don’t think there’s much harm in giving money for report card grades, mind, especially if you have a kid who doesn’t place much intrinsic value on an A. If I was to really stretch it to find harm, I might not like the lesson imparted were every reward came down to money, because that would seem to indicate that money is the bestest thing ever. I think there are more valuable rewards, especially parental time. My son would much rather I spend an hour playing video games with him than give him $10.

Interesting discussion! My own job (tutoring) involves rewarding kids for good work- we give out special tickets, and having enough tickets can earn them prizes. The main problem with this is that most of the prizes we offer appeal to the lower half of our age range, so it is a little more challenging to motivate the older kids (though we do offer gift cards, which sway some of the high schoolers).

I see a wide range of reactions from kids regarding rewards. An extreme example was a boy whose mother paid him $10 just to go to tutoring, regardless of how he did. The boy was very defiant and we had constant discipline problems with him. So essentially he was getting rewarded for negative behavior- he’d drag his feet through the tasks because he knew he was getting the ten bucks one way or the other.

On the flip side, I saw a child whose parents had a ‘gold star’ system. If he was well-behaved, on-task and working hard, we’d give him a gold star. If he could get X (can’t remember the number) of stars in a set time frame, his mom would buy him a Gameboy Advance. I was extremely impressed with his drive to meet the goal, and he earned the gameboy easily. Fortunately, even after he was rewarded, he continued to have a good work ethic because he realized it wasn’t that hard to be on-task anymore.

However, regarding adults, work, and raises, I’m inclined to disagree. Right now I’m looking for other jobs because as nice as the tutoring job is, it simply isn’t cost-effective. Raises are only annual events and we get +$1/hr more AT MOST :mad: This is in spite of stellar performance. Not surprisingly, we have trouble retaining tutors for more than a year, since there aren’t enough rewards to keep people sticking around