Saturday, 30 April 2011

To bribe or not to bribe? That is the question.

I know this is a hot button topic when it comes to getting your kids to do something. I find there are some people staunchly on the "no" side, who insist that it doesn't accomplish the real goal. Others tend not to do it, but will turn to bribing in times of exhaustion or desperation. Others find ways that it really works.

As in most parenting issues, I find myself in the middle. I don't like to bribe, because I do want my children to develop the desire and ability to do things because it is good for them and not for a toy or a treat. But I often hear the words tumbling out of my mouth "if you just do this now, then..." Ah, as parents we need to give ourselves a break sometime. No one parents perfectly.

This past week I consciously made a decision to use the bribe system. Colin's teacher is very good at sending home activities, books and writing sheets to help improve Colin's french. I, on the other hand, have not been very good at insisting he do them. My philosophy was that he has already spent 6 hours in school, plus 2 hours in travel/waiting time, plus all the morning time before school simply getting ready to go to school. When he gets home, he generally only has 2 hours before it's time to get ready for bed, and that time also includes dinner. I often asked him if he wanted to read or do a French activity, but he would look at me with eyes exhausted from a full day in a foreign language and say no.

After my interview with his teacher last week, I realized that a little at home might go a long way, and so I really wanted to help him do his homework. There was a second problem here, in addition to him not wanting to do it: I would often forget, not have time, or not want to fit in the homework. As it turned out, we all needed a little motivation.

That motivation came in the form of a schedule/check list. While at the Dollar store, I saw a toy I knew he would absolutely love, so I purchased it. When I got home, I displayed it in the kitchen. After school, Colin saw it and went crazy for it. I told him that if he worked on one French thing every day after school, at the end of the week he could have the toy. We would do this each week until school is out, but he had to complete all five daily activities in order to win the reward.

Colin was game right away. So was Caleb, which is also good. His preschool doesn't push learning to write as much as Colin's did, and Caleb has never wanted to sit down and work on anything either. Enter the toy, and he's all game.

I created a chart with their names on the left side, and 5 boxes beside their names. Above each box is a picture of an activity. For Colin: reading, writing, sentence structure, speaking, and singing. For Caleb: reading, writing, singing, letters and numbers. Each day they can choose what they want to do, and when it is completed they put a magnet into that box. Five magnets = toy/treat!

I cannot tell you the success it has had thus far this week. Okay, it's only been three days, but their enthusiasm is fantastic. Colin, who has never wanted to even open the book he gets home every week, read it five times. Caleb, who can't stand holding a pencil, copied out the letter A ten times. They sang a bunch of songs in French. Caleb put together the entire alphabet in blocks. Colin completed a letter homework sheet without complaining once. And every day, after their one movie episode, when I say it's time for homework they run to our magnet board to see what activity to pick.

So on this one, I'm all for the bribe.


Jenn said...

I have a friend who once told me that if you give the treat before you expect the behavior, then it's a bribe. If you give a treat after the behavior, it's positive reinforcement. It's a fine line if you ask me, but I liked his explanation!

Heather said...

Whatever works! I'd bribe my kids to do homework too if I got those kind of results! Creative! Way to go xo

Mom said...

It's a very hard decision about when to bribe/reward children and when to expect the behaviour because it's the right thing for them to do. I'm not sure there is a right or wrong answer to this dilemma. I think that age has a lot to do with it - hopefully, as they get older, they will do it because doing homework is part of their education - it's the connection between school and home AND it sets them up with good study habits which they will need the rest of their education lives.