Bribing My Kid With Cash: Brilliant or Misguided?

Do you know how you sometimes make a decision about your kid and think – wow, this is either amazingly brilliant or I’m totally screwing this child up for the rest of her life? Well, that’s the situation I’m in now, and it all started with a piggy bank that digitally counts the amount of money you put in it.

My daughter received the bank earlier in the week, as a Valentine’s Day gift from her great aunt. For some reason I can't quite figure out, she made an interesting demand upon opening it: We are not allowed to give her any money unless she does something useful to earn it.

When we heard this, my husband and I looked at each other in amazement. He had spent an entire summer in college napping on the couch in his dad’s office. Where did this industrious child come from?

I didn’t know how to respond to her request. She’s six and already has a few responsibilities around the house: making her bed, cleaning up after herself and helping us empty the dishwasher. Rewarding her for doing these chores seemed to defeat the purpose.

In a moment of either brilliance or utter stupidity, I hatched a plan. Instead of giving her money for chores, we’d pay her for displaying certain behaviors we think she needs to work on. For example, she’s a bit of a perfectionist at school. So when her teacher corrects her and she doesn’t get upset – BAM – she gets a little coinage.

Bribing our kids

Day One of this experiment was yesterday. I picked her up from school and not surprisingly, she told me that her teacher had corrected her handwriting. Thanks to our little deal, my daughter let the criticism roll off her back. No tears, no stress. “Do I get money for that, Mommy?” she asked expectantly. Yes, I responded.

About twenty minutes later, we’re at Starbucks. She wants some water. “Can I get money, Mommy, if I ask for water?” she inquires, knowing that I’m always gently nudging her to order her own food and drinks. Yes, I say, more hesitantly this time, realizing that my plan might be working a little too well.

By the end of Day One, my kid had three quarters resting comfortably in her piggy bank. But I find that I'm resting not as comfortably with this new reward system. On the one hand, I’m pleased to see her developing some new skills. On the other hand, it feels like I'm bribing my own kid, which leads me to believe I'm slowly nudging her into a lifetime of therapy in which she complains each week that her mother ruined her life and it all started with a piggy bank.

I guess I'll have to wait and see how things go over the rest of the week. Either my kid will soon be sitting on a nice wad of cash that she earned through her own efforts, or she'll be really ticked off that her mama keeps filling up that bank for no reason at all.

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[photo credit: Beth Kobliner]

Filed under: family

Tags: bribing, cash, motherhood, reward

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