Does it really matter how you motivate your tot?

What’s the difference between bribes, rewards, and praise? And does it really matter how you motivate your toddler to be better behaved?

You know that if your child doesn’t cooperate, you can bribe him with an ice-cream or some other tempting play item. But are you harming him or simply rewarding him for good behaviour?Bribes and rewards do have something in common. In both cases, you give your child something in return for good behaviour. The important difference lies in what you teach him.
Bribing encourages him to act in a certain way to get what he wants, whereas a reward will teach him commitment and responsibility. It’s vital to ensure you’re installing good characteristics rather than encouraging manipulation.

Are bribes harmful?

Your child will cooperate only to obtain and indulgence and feels entitled to a treat for the most basic responsibility, like brushing his teeth. Eventually, he learns just how far he can push you. For the sake of peace, you give in and your child has learnt a vice rather than a virtue.

Ways you can avoid bribes

Encourage good behaviour by:

  • Giving your child constant, positive feedback
  • Being a good example
  • Listening to their problems or concerns

Why rewards are helpful

Society works on a reward system. You work; you get paid. Rewards, star charts, and, later on, contracts are usually effective in developing maturity in your child.

An effective reward system

Explain to your child the benefit of what you’re asking him to do. Brushing teeth twice a day will keep them healthy, for example. Here are six ways to implement an effective reward system:

  1. Select the reward: Your child needs to be able to identify the rewards and to choose the one most suitable. Having a list of rewards, and allowing him to negotiate with you, teaches him to reason and be independent.
  2. Match the reward to the behaviour: A reward is similar to a salary. Your child needs to understand what he’ll earn from a particular behaviour.
  3. Be specific: Leave no room for misunderstandings. For example, if you reward your child for keeping his room tidy, then explain exactly what this means.
  4. Set times: Tell him his room needs to be cleaned just before supper time, and give him a 15-minute warning. Ring a bell when it must be done.
  5. Provide a friendly reminder: Picture charts, depicting desired behaviours work well. Your child will take time to learn the new behaviour, and this prevents the need for you to nag him.
  6. Set a time frame: New habits take about three weeks to learn. Explain to your child that after this time, he’ll be expected to continue the behaviour without an incentive.


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