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Remember rewards, beware bribes!

Jude Avatar Kids MatterJude, Kids Matter Supervisor and Facilitator, shares how the promise of hot chocolate can be used as a reward OR a bribe, depending on how you present it!

reward: n. a thing given in recognition of service, effort, or achievement. > a fair return for good or bad behaviour. > a sum offered for the detection of a criminal, the restoration of lost property, etc. ●v. give a reward to. > show one’s appreciation of (an action of quality) by making a gift. > (be rewarded) receive what one deserves.

bribe: v. dishonestly persuade (someone) to act in one’s favour by a payment or other inducement.

In recent attempts at homeschooling during Covid-19 isolation, I have, in desperation, forgotten the crucial difference between a reward and a bribe. The Kids Matter parenting programme looks at Routines and Rewards in session 4 and explores how to use rewards effectively.

In essence, bribes are used to persuade children to stop doing something, while rewards are used to encourage children to start or continue doing something.

We’ve been in lockdown now for over two weeks and I have two reluctant primary school learners at home. There’s no denying that it’s harder to work at your kitchen table than it is in a class with all your friends doing the same thing. I try cajoling, I try mentioning that their teacher will want to know what they’ve been doing, and then because I just want to be able to get on with something else while they work I hear the words coming out of my mouth…

“If you just stop complaining and do this worksheet I will make a hot chocolate for you.”

The trouble with bribes is that they can feel effective in the short term; for us there was a flurry of activity and the inevitable requests for marshmallows and squirty cream!

However, the next day as we attempted to sit down to more maths my daughter tried the following:

“I’ll only do this if you make me a hot chocolate.”

If only she could grasp improper fractions with such speed!

For me, the hot chocolate wasn’t the issue. It’s the way I presented it.  As the home schooling looks likely to continue for a good while longer I need to remember to agree a reward in advance before I hit desperation and turn to the bribes.

We’ve got three maths sheets to work on this morning – when they’re finished we’ll all have a hot chocolate as a reward.

Photo by Mark Zamora on Unsplash

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