Bribe: Is It a Healthy Reward or an Unhealthy Practice?


But is bribery really an effective strategy to discipline a child?

We have often heard this from our parents, if we score 80% marks, they will buy us a phone or something that we like. Remember the motivation it built in us and if we were not able to achieve the desired goal, how it impacted us?

Bribes are offered spontaneously, in moments of desperation to stop the child's current negative behaviors. Since they are spontaneous, they involve no consistent plan and are just short-term solutions.

And then children learn to focus only on what they are awarded as bribes which lower their internal motivation and increases external motivation to the extent that they would start expecting these bribes regularly. 

Instead of helping them want to repeat the behavior, we could end up teaching them that the reason to do what we ask is that they'll "get"something in return and so it could lead to entitlement or manipulative behavior.

As they get older, they could try to  bribe upwards. And then we would have little choice in the matter and would have to give in to their demands. 

NOTE: There is a difference between bribes and rewards. 

A bribe when you offer an incentive to stop bad behavior.A reward is when you offer an incentive top romote/encourage good behavior. As mentioned above, if we bribe a child for stopping "bad" behavior, we’re teaching them to misbehave to gain something in return. For instance, a child may not do their homework in order to be bribed.  So while on the one hand, rewards are thought of before and encourage good and planned-out behaviors, bribes on the other hand, lower intrinsic or internal levels of motivation and even increase manipulative behavior.

Impact on romantic relationships

Such habits and behaviors could carry on well into adulthood. A sense of entitlement and manipulative behaviors could lead to unhealthy adult romantic relationships.Entitlement could show up as a lack of appreciation in a relationship. A person may have unrealistic expectations or demands from their partner, or not appreciate their efforts enough which could set them both up for disappointment. The other partner could also end up feeling discouraged or even inadequate. The partner with entitlement issues could also have a tendency of keeping score in the relationship which could lead to more fights. The partner could also have the expectation of receiving something in return after doing something nice for their partner. For instance,they could bring flowers for their partner but also expect something in return which may or may not be explicitly expressed. The deed wasn’t done only to make their partner happy but to gain something from it. Lastly, manipulation tactics such as love bombing and gaslighting could be used by this partner to get whatever they want from their partner. This could not only cause disharmony in the relationship but could also cause their partner to experience confusion,low self-esteem, and losing their sense of self, among other adverse consequences. The relationship would then be unhealthy and toxic.    

There are various rewards that could be give to children for healthy learning!