You’ve probably heard yourself say, “Do your homework or you can’t watch TV” or “Stop whining and you can have a treat”. As a parent, it’s easy to fall into the trap of bribing your child to get them to do something. While offering a bribe can seem like a quick, easy-fix solution, it’s not good for your child in the long-term.
Bribery teaches your child that if they cry or complain they’ll get what they want and it doesn’t teach them to be self-motivated. They can also come to expect rewards for things they should be doing anyway, like cleaning up after themselves.
So here are our top tips for motivating your child without bribery:
1. Lead by example
If you want your child to keep their bedroom tidy, make sure you keep your bedroom tidy. It might seem like a no-brainer, but your child will copy your behaviour and take your lead on all sorts of things, including how you act and what you say. Being a good role model is the best thing you can do, right from when they’re very young.
2. Don’t use food as a reward or punishment
Rewarding or punishing your child with food could set them up to have an unhealthy relationship with food. They may come to associate food with being “good” or “bad” and that pattern could continue into adulthood.
3. Praise your child for trying their best
It’s important you praise your child for the effort they put into something, not the outcome. This teaches them that doing their best and trying their hardest is the most important thing, not what they achieve. For example, if they have homework, tell them they have to do their best, not necessarily get everything correct or completed.
4. Join in with your child
If you want to get your child to get off the computer and get outside more often, don’t just order them to or try to bribe them, join them! Make it a family affair, or just the two of you could go and do something outdoorsy and fun. Young kids especially love doing things with their parents and will relish the undivided attention.
5. Give your child a sense of control
One of the easiest times to give into bribery is when your child won’t eat their veges. However, by giving them a sense of control or options, they’re more likely to comply. For example, give them a choice of veges or let them choose how they will be served, i.e. grated or cut into sticks. You could also get them involved in growing veges in the garden. It’s exciting for them to see something grow. They can look after it by watering it, picking it, then eating it. Getting them involved in the process gives them a sense of control and satisfaction.