Rewards for Good Behavior - SmartMom

Bribes & Rewards for Good Behavior: A Debate

For many parents with a child, bribes and rewards for good behavior are an every day part of life. In fact, most of us wonder how we would get anything done without them. Getting your little one into bed at a reasonable hour, making attempts at encouraging them to try their vegetables or simply just getting them to wear a coat outside might be considered impossible for parents of a child with an independent naughty streak. But how far do you go? And when does a reward actually become a bribe?

The most common and simplest of the many ‘bribes’ us parents use is sugar. Placating a tantrum-ing child in the middle of the supermarket with some candy, or quieting a wayward and unhappy toddler in a restaurant with ice-cream are all extremely popular methods used by parents. And why? Because they usually work. But this can be dangerous. For a start the child will start to make a connection between rewards, positive behavior and sweet treats – something that can cause problems in later life. Not only that but there is a danger of them putting a higher value on sugar packed treats than on healthier foods. Meaning the child is less like to choose healthier options as they grow older. On the flip side, some health professionals claim that rewarding a child with a cookie for good behavior isn’t that damaging at all. So long as you are not using it as a bribe for them to behave – the simple of act allowing your little one some chocolate or an ice-cream as a way of saying thank you for doing some chores is actually a healthy and reasonable way of teaching them that good behavior pays dividends in the long run.

However, it has been speculated that one of the reasons for the obesity problems in the western world is this connection between treats and good behavior. And the reason that many adults seek comfort food when they are unhappy might be a product of the connection that parents have cultivated by giving children treats when they hurt themselves. So maybe food isn’t the best option? A reward chart that eventually leads up to a new toy after a series of stickers might be better for your child’s health. Or if you wanted to shy away from material things then the possibility of a slightly later bedtime one night? Or a trip to the park if they promise to brush their teeth the night before. Certainly reward charts are considered a great way of telling your child ‘well done’ and encouraging more positive behavior; many professionals actively encourage them as a way of teaching them to stop and recognize when they do something right and of giving them something to aim for so they keep it up.

Unfortunately though, not everyone agrees. Whether you use extra pocket money, stickers or a sweet treat, many argue that this bribery can become an ongoing pattern that ultimately teaches your child to act out to get what they want. They also argue that while it can seem as if your parenting methods are working at the time, they can actually cause many further problems when they reach their teenage years and have not emotionally developed enough to be able to handle situations where they inevitably don’t get what they want in life.

There’s no doubt that it’s a tough debate. And one that very few parents haven’t struggled with. Especially given what a slog this being a parent lark can be sometimes. So as with all the little parenting debates, one can only try and strike a healthy balance and do what’s right for both them and their little one.

Good luck!


I started a behavior chart with my son to promote good behavior. Once he had it all filled up then he gets to pick a “coupon” with a reward on it. Well he finished filling it up yesterday and got a reward but my 10 yr old step daughter thinks she should get the reward also. I don’t think she should, am I wrong?

I’m tying to put together a rewards chart for my 4 year old son. Any suggestions? I’ve never done this before but I want it to work because he is having major behavior problems at school and I thought if I had a chart at home where he would get a sticker for every good day he has then he could get a reward. What do you mommies do?

My 4 year old daughter has started throwing major fits, kicking and screaming, yelling to the point of making herself sick. We have tried taking things away, talking calmly with her, counting to ten, ignoring it, rewarding good behavior, redirecting; but nothing is working to change this behavior! She has excellent speech skills so she can clearly communicate. Please help!

So I do this thing with my kids where if they do something good once a day or been on good behavior for a day they get a sticker by there name on the chart and if they misbehave they get it token away and the kid with the most stickers gets to pick what we do for family fun day. I like rewarding them for good things!

My 5yo is extremely unruly and I’ve tried everything I can think of. She starts kindergarten soon and I’m worried about her behavior because if I can’t control it how will she behave for the teacher? I know a lot of it has to do with competition with her little brother who never misbehaves therefore gets more rewards but what can I do? Any ideas?

My 3 yr old girl loves to get rewards when she behaves well. Now it has become tad a bit too much for me. she keeps asking for perks almost all the time. How do I tone it down a notch?

I am at a loss. My 3.5 yr old is rude and has started pooping her pants again. She constantly picks on her sister and bites and than laughs. We have tried rewards and praise for good behaviors and it is met with negative behaviors. We have tried discipline and redirection and nothing is working. Anyone have any suggestions as to what else we can do?

My son will be 5 in November. He is my little man, I love him so much. Lately he has been doing things lately to get my attention. I do not want to reward bad behavior but I feel like he is constantly getting into trouble… I don’t know what to do. Help please!

My 9mo throws fits like a 2year old. Kicking, screaming, hitting, biting, and throwing herself back. We don’t reward this bad behavior at all. We don’t give in and the fits never last long. She has always been an aggressive baby. Are these fits just a phase?

My kids love the behavior chart because of the reward they get but I am trying to step it up a notch since they are getting older. I need some ideas of what to reward them with other than family fun day, any ideas?

Get more great advice and meet other moms. Download the SmartMom app today.