bribing your child

You’re Not Really Bribing Your Child, You’re Motivating

Hey Mommies! You may hear that you’re not supposed to bribe your children, but there is a fine line between bribing and motivating, and if used correctly, it’s really not a bad thing.

Bribing is more the act of giving gifts or rewards to get something you want. Motivating is more to excite, spark, or prompt.

I used to feel bad about “bribing” kids to do things. For example, “Finish you’re lunch, and you can have a piece of candy” or “Let me finishing cleaning, and then we’ll go to the park.” When I was talking to a teacher friend about this one day, she said that we’re not really bribing, we’re motivating, and everyone needs to be motivated to do things they don’t want to do.

For example, if you didn’t get paid to go to work and do your job, you likely wouldn’t do it. A paycheck is our motivation for doing our job (most of the time). We can also be motivated to do something because it just makes us feel good. Or, we can be motivated to do things for our friends or people we like because it makes them happy, and that makes us feel good too. However, if you get absolutely nothing out of doing something, you likely won’t do it or will really drag your feet!

The same applies to a child. If a child doesn’t want to do something, and they have no reason or motivation to want to do it, then they aren’t going to do it! Or they are going to pitch a really big fit about it. 🙂

Motivators can be used in a couple different ways. They can be similar to bribes and given in the form of a gift or reward (Example: Giving your child a cookie for eating all of her dinner or taking him the park if he’s are good on errands with you). Motivators can also be withholding a preferred item/activity until your child completes what you’ve asked. (Example: Withholding iPad time until your child brushes his teeth and gets dressed)

The difference between bribing your child and motivating your child is that when motivating, you should also be providing an explanation as to why your child needs to complete the activity and give praise, positive feedback, and positive attention to your child when he or she does what you have asked them to do. This helps build their understanding, confidence, self esteem, and internal motivation to complete activities that need to be done just because that’s what asked and expected, and not just because they are going to get a reward out of it.

Without this, you’re just bribing, or being the mean mom that takes away their iPad.

By: Emily Bettis, MOT/L


Emily Bettis, MOT/L is a pediatric occupational therapist and mother. She has been working with children birth-5 since 2008 and has been a mother since 2013. Emily is the founder and author