Question: Previously you addressed the use of rewards in influencing kids. Isn’t a mother manipulating the child by using rewards and punishment to get them to do what she wants?
Answer: No more than a factory supervisor manipulates his employees by docking their pay if they arrive late.
No more than a policeman manipulates a speeding driver by giving him a ticket. No more than an insurance company manipulates that same driver by increasing his premium. The word manipulation implies a sinister or selfish motive of the one in charge. I don’t agree.
Question: When would you not recommend the use of rewards?
Answer: Rewards should never be used as a payoff to a child for not disobeying.
That becomes a bribe — a substitute for authority. For example, Mom is having trouble controlling her three-year-old. “Come here, Pamela,” she says, but the youngster screams, “No!” and runs the other way. In exasperation Mom offers Pam a sucker if she’ll come quickly. Rather than rewarding obedience, Mom has actually reinforced the child’s defiance.
Another misuse of rewards is to pay a child for doing the routine jobs that are his responsibility as a member of the family. Taking out the trash and making beds might be included in those duties.
But when they are asked to spend half a Saturday cleaning the garage or weeding the garden, it seems very appropriate to make it worth their time.
James Dobson is founder and Chairman Emeritus of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80995 (www.focusonthefamily.org).