What bad behavior are a lot of parents guilty of today? It’s bribing their children for good behavior! Like rewarding them with $5 or candy bar for eating broccoli or cleaning their room! And while science shows that bribery works in the short term, experts warn it also causes long-term damage!

Dr. Edward Deci is a psychology professor at the University of Rochester. He says that it’s natural for parents to turn to bribing when they’re desperate, like when their toddler throws a tantrum in the grocery store or their teen refuses to do their homework. The problem is that every time you bribe your child, you’re wiring them to expect a reward for good behavior. And experts warn they’ll never learn to do it on their own. In fact, studies have shown that when people perform tasks just to get a reward, they stop doing it the second the reward’s taken away. And you don’t want your future adult daughter to only eat carrots if you slip her a $20.

So, here are new strategies from psychologists to get your child to do everything from eat their veggies to clean their room – bribe-free:

  • Give ‘em the facts! Explain why what you’re asking them do is important, that way they’ll understand and be more willing to cooperate. Instead of thinking you’re just forcing them to do something “to be mean.” For example, you can say “It’s important that you eat Brussell sprouts so your body gets all the nutrients it needs to develop and work properly.”

  • It’s OK to surprise your child with rewards – occasionally. For example, if you’re impressed by your child’s job cleaning up their room, then treating them to fro-yo is fine. But experts say only give out rewards randomly. Otherwise, your child will expect them.

  • Hand out a compliment! It’s the best type of reward. Research shows that praise boosts your child’s self-esteem, and makes them feel more confident. Experts suggest praising the process of what your child did, not the end product. That will motivate them to continue that good behavior. So, the next time they ace a class, instead of saying “Way to go on that ‘A’!” Say, “I’m proud of you for working so hard in science class all semester!”

Have you bribed your kid in the past and had to change your ways? What other alternatives are there for parents instead of bribery? Tell us what you think!

Lesson Expert

Meredith McKenna