10 December 2009 11:13 AM

How to Bribe Kids

by rbavaria

Well, all right, it’s not really “bribing” kids, but that’s the word so many interviewers use.


“So, Dr. Rick, is it okay to ‘bribe’ kids to encourage them to get better grades, to do their homework, or to do their chores?” asked yet another radio interviewer the other day.


I dislike this question, but I realize it’s well intentioned.


I don’t have any trouble at all with occasional, age-appropriate, reasonable rewards for kids.  I don’t call them bribes, which, after all, are for getting people to do things they’re NOT supposed to do.


I’ve written in other blogs and have said in countless interviews that occasional rewards for meeting special goals are okay by me.  They don’t have to be monetary, either.  In fact, sometimes non-monetary rewards are the best kind.  When you and your child have agreed on this school year’s goals (or this month’s or week’s or even today’s), it’s smart also to decide on rewards and, yes, consequences.  For lots of kids, a great reward is merely some special time with you, without any siblings or interruptions.  Silence your cell phone.


So here, in the interest of placating all the idealists who tell me that kids shouldn’t get rewards for doing well in school, it’s their job after all,  and they should be learning just for the intrinsic pleasure of learning (insert eye rolling here), is a list of rewarding things that you and your child can do together when he or she has aced that math test, improved a report card grade, kept a study area well-organized for a semester, turned in all homework for a month, improved the neatness of assignments, maintained a planner for an agreed-upon time, or finished the science fair project ahead of time.  Each one is either cheap or free.

  1. Go to the library  and have him select a fun book.  Read together.  You read, then she reads.  Choose something fun.  Everyone, incidentally, likes to be read to.  That’s why audio books are so popular.

  2. Break a sweat.  Play soccer or some other favorite outdoor game.

  3. Go to a museum.  Any kind of museum.  There are lots of free ones.

  4. Try something new, like horseback riding together.  Or ballet or bowling.

  5. Take a walk and talk.  Count the different kinds of flowers and trees you see.  Notice how they change with the seasons.

  6. Color, paint, draw, take photos.

  7. Make a pie.  Eat it.  With ice cream.

  8. Talk.  Conversation doesn’t have to be a lost art.  Listen.

  9. Skip rope.

  10. Hop scotch.

  11. Make up funny jokes and stories.

  12. Make up funny songs.

  13. Write a short story with characters and plot based on family experiences.  Don’t tell her she’s doing language arts.

  14. Sing.

  15. Dance.

  16. Go to church, synagogue, or mosque.  Talk about religion in your life.

  17. Count the different kinds of dogs (or cars or anything else) in your neighborhood.  Make a list or chart them in order of prevalence.  Don’t tell him he’s doing math.

  18. Talk about your favorite things – sports, cars, books, movies, TV shows, subjects in school, games, foods, etc.

  19. Tell funny stories about your younger days.

  20. Pass along family history.  Tell about grandparents, relatives no longer alive, the places your family has lived, the jobs they’ve had, special accomplishments, touching memories.

  21. Share family photos, gifts passed along from generation to generation, and other memorabilia.

  22. Watch his favorite movie.  Then watch yours.  Talk about them.  Compare and contrast

  23. Talk about “heroes.”  Yours, hers.  Talk about why they’re heroes to each of you.

  24. Plant something and watch it grow over time.  Trees are especially good because they take so long and can become a long-term activity, changing and growing as each of you changes and grows.

  25. Teach about saving money.  Watch it grow.

  26. Count the change that accumulates in piggy banks and jars around the house.  Take it to the bank or one of those change-counting machines.  Donate 10% to your child’s favorite charity, in her name.

  27. Inject as much fun as possible into household chores.  (Rake leaves into piles, jump into them.)

  28. Encourage a hobby that’s unrelated to school.

  29. Learn to play musical instruments together.

  30. Write a play together.  Keep it a secret until it’s ready to be performed for the family.

These are just off the top of my head.  You can think of many more, I’m sure.  Share them with us, won’t you.  Click on “Comments” below.




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