Bribes That Really Work
"We have a 'pebble jar' reward system at our house. When my children do a chore, put a colorful pebble into a glass jar; when the jar is full, we get to go to a museum, or fishing, or to some other fun place. Now, I can tell the older kids, 'If you want a pebble, please read your little brother a story.' And they do it!"
--Masha Laurence, mom of 3 kids, Logan, UT
"We try not to give food-related or monetary rewards; otherwise, good behavior comes with a price tag, or encourages non-healthy eating. Usually, we reward our kids by going to a special place of their choosing. For my daughter, it's the roller skating rink (because we all hate going, except for her!). For my son, it might be going to the trading card store for baseball cards (he doesn't get to go often, since it's about 30 minutes away). For younger kids, stickers are great short-term rewards."
--Ari Brown, M.D., author of Toddler 411, mom of 2 kids, Austin, TX
"Sometimes we use a small piece of candy to motivate our kids to use the potty (who hasn't tried that?), or a longer storytime to encourage teeth brushing. Hugs and kisses, high fives, and 'great jobs!' also work to show them how proud we are of the things they do."
--Lynn Manchee, mom of 2 kids, Orange, NJ
"I have 3-year-old triplets, so I've tried everything from candy to new toys. What's worked the best: one-on-time with Mommy or Daddy. This way, they don't have to compete for our attention and get a special day with us, even if we're just going grocery shopping or for a drive."
--Charlene Niedfeld, mom of 3 kids, North Bellmore, NY
"When my son Ben was 5, we had a problem with him getting very worked up in the evening. I decided to offer him a dime for every night he managed to control his behavior. After a couple of weeks of earning dimes, I presented him with a gold medal (really cardboard decorated with gold glitter, strung on a ribbon) which said "First Prize for Self-Control." He was very proud of the medal, liked wearing it, and it reminded him to keep his behavior in check."
--Virginia Shiller, Ph.D., author of Rewards for Kids! Ready-to-Use Charts & Activities for Positive Parenting and mom of 2 kids, New Haven, CT
"When my daughter went to preschool for the first time, we told her that if she didn't cry after Mommy dropped her off, we'd go to the library or on another special outing after pickup. It really worked."
--Deanna Grider, mom of 2 kids, Crozet, VA
"Right now the only bribe that works on my son is anything related to the movie Cars, whether it's Cars stickers or a Cars story. He's addicted to it. We use the stickers every time he uses the potty."
--Luci Garcia, mom of one, Greeley, CO
"Stickers never did much for my kids when it came to bribes -- I mean rewards. What works varies child to child. In our family, because I have a lot of kids, promising one-on-one time works for all of them. The younger ones usually just want to snuggle or join me on the trip to the store; the older ones often have a place they want me to take them, or an activity they want to do."
--Parenting contributing editor Claire McCarthy, MD, mom of 5 kids, Melrose, MA