Bribery is Not Real Toddler Discipline!
Submitted by Kaimon
When it comes to toddler discipline, there is a big difference between bribery and positive reinforcement. Bribery is an "If/Then" proposition. "If you behave, then I will give you a treat." Positive reinforcement, on the other hand, is just given. "You were so good today at the grocery store, I'm giving you a treat!"
It may not seem like a huge difference, but it is! Positive reinforcement works as a strategy for toddler discipline, as long as it's done consistently, but bribery just makes toddlers expect that they will be given things—especially since I've seen many parents giving in even if the "if" wasn't done!
With bribery, kids have the treat hanging over their heads, and they want it. They stress about it. They think about it. That anxiousness makes them antsy (and usually even less likely to behave!). They get upset if they don't get it, and mom and dad often give in, just to avoid a meltdown. However, if a toddler unexpectedly receives a reward for behaving properly, he or she is more likely to repeat the desired behavior(s), and learn that when they misbehave, there is no reward.
Please don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you're a bad parent if you've ever bribed your child! Goodness knows—when regular toddler discipline fails, we've all done it. I have with the kids I've worked with, and my own child is still a baby. I'm just saying that if we're aware of what we're doing, maybe we can discipline our kids a little more effectively ... at least most of the time!