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

We never bribed the kids to pull their grades. We told them that we expected them to pass their courses with a minimum grade of C. If they didn’t, they lost privileges. However, if they pulled straight-A’s, there was a bonus of some sort. Not necessarily money, but something that had meaning and value to them.

Sadly, we didn’t have to pay off on the bonuses all that often.

Like dangermum I’ve read Alfie Kohn (not the book, just articles on the web - I’m too cheap to buy books more than once in a blue moon…) and it really resonated with me - rewards were never really part of my upbringing, particularly monetary rewards, and I’ve been actively avoiding them now with my own kids, except under really exceptional circumstances. Actually Kohn takes it pretty far - even to the extent of not liking “good girl/good boy” when the kids do something you like.

I’m not above manipulating the environment to get the result I want, though. Mostly this means that if there’s a task or something to get through that I know my kids really hate, I try to incorporate something they like into it. And if I really have to use a reward, I’d far prefer it to be of the doing-things-together variety, because that’s relationship-building, unlike just handing over cash, which is not (or in our case, stickers or stamps - they’re a bit young to understand about money yet)

So far it seems to be working fine, they are pretty well-behaved for their ages - of course, we’ve got a long ways to go yet so who knows if I might change my mind further down the track. But I figure it’s probably a lot easier to go from not using rewards to using rewards, if necessary, rather than the other way around … if you start off that way, then what do you do when you come to an area where it really doesn’t work? Where do you go from there? If you start off with rewards for everything you want them to do, then you’re pretty much stuck with keeping that up for the rest of their childhood (and even beyond, maybe?)

Why, yes, in a certain sense, I would continue working. I volunteer regularly with a variety of nonprofit organizations, as well as serve on a couple of boards. That’s all without pay. To be quite honest, if I didn’t need my paycheck for pesky little things like electricity and food, then I’d do a lot more volunteering.

Along the same line, there are many jobs I wouldn’t do, regardless of how much they paid.

Bribes teach a child that the world runs on money. Well guess what? It does.

My parents took me out for ice cream or something if I got a good report card. I knew people that got money, but when I once mentioned it to my mom, she laughed in my face. Thanks, mom.

No, really, the ice creams were nice.

I’m a teacher and I bribe one of my classes. My 5th graders are (or were) totally out of control. Discipline is not one of the high points of the Bulgarian educational system. Anyway, thanks to my friends and family in the US, I have about eighteen trillion stickers. Stickers are not widely available here (maybe at all…I know I’ve never seen any, and my kids are always asking me where mine came from), and my kids will do ANYTHING to get some. Including sitting quietly and obediently in English class. Any kid who a. works, b. is quiet, c. stays sitting throughout class gets a sticker, every day. The school director has even commented on how unusually well-behaved the 5th graders are in my class. Hahaha!

My only worry is that the other classes will figure out that I’m bribing the 5th grade and will realize how easy it would be for them to get the same deal…

In short, bribery is good.

phall0106, I know you’ve posted about your son before, so congrats on the success you’ve had helping him turn it around.

I also agree with most of the posters in saying that you don’t seem to be bribing as much as you are rewarding good and positive behavior. There’s nothing wrong with that. I personally never received money or any other sorts of things for good grades. My parents let me know very early on that they knew what I was capable of doing in school, and as I got older, they also helped me understand that doing well was its own reward. I moved to a school that had a principal that took an interest in me, and I sometimes got extra perks (getting out of class early to talk about her career) for doing so. Maybe you can connect with an administrator and get some of those perks for your son. I used to love this - getting out of a class every now and then, and getting a pass from the principal!

As a teacher, I attempted to run my classroom with as few unnatural rewards as possible (candy, prizes, etc.). To me, it’s flawed to analogize pay from work to rewards. The schooling experience is primarily for the student’s benefit. Why should you be rewarded for furthering your own knowledge? You will be the beneficiary of the gains you make. However, everyone likes to be noticed and acknowledged for a job well done. My classroom rewards were either notes, letters, or visits to my students’ homes. The exact same things that are typically used to punish kids, I used to reward kids. A note was earned by accumulating points during the day - a kid would have to do most things correctly and probably two or three “extras” to get a note or letter. Kids would fight so hard for these, just like kids fight over candy.

I think the decision to give cash for grades is a personal choice. I think it’s great to give a treat that coincides with strong academic performance, but I would always advocate that the motivation needs to reside with the student primarily, and the reward should be ancillary. In other words, I get worried when kids tell me they are working hard for grades because they’ll get a new pair of sneakers - and that’s all they’ll say.

But the grade system works as a reward only once the child understands it to be one. At the very minimum, positive verbal/gestual feedback for good grades and negative for bad ones is required.

Matrícula de honor (10) was higher than sobresaliente (9-9.9) was higher than notable (7-8.9) was higher than bien (6-6.9); pass was at 5. But of those, for many years the only one that I would have used outside of a class context and which therefore had “real meaning” by itself, was bien: “good work.” It wasn’t until I was in late high school that words like “noticeable” and “outstanding” got “real meaning”; as for that “free tuition,” the name is still there but you don’t get the free tuition any more…