Updated on 09.28.08

Thoughts on Children and Rewards for Normal Behavior

Trent Hamm

vintage: children with dolls by freeparking on Flickr!A few days ago, I took my son to get a haircut (mostly because he got a piece of gum in his hair in the park, we had to cut it out, and his hair looked disastrous afterwards, beyond our ability to fix unless we shaved his head). He’s a bright and observant two year old boy (just shy of three), and so he often watches what others are doing to learn more about how people act.

The only other customer in the entire shop was a six or seven year old boy and his mother, who came in shortly after us. My son got up on the chair and sat there quietly as his hair cut began and he mostly just watched what the other boy was doing.

The boy proceeded to throw a temper tantrum as his mother tried to cajole him into getting a haircut. Finally, she promised to get him a new Webkinz if he was “a very good boy” during his haircut. After that, the boy immediately brightened up and sat down for his haircut.

My son watched this and remembered it. After we left the hair cut place, he said that he was a good boy during his hair cut and that he wanted a new car. I told him no, and he started to get really upset and said that the other boy got a toy for getting his hair cut.

I sat him on my lap and we talked through it for a while. I told him that grown ups don’t get toys just because they get their hair cut or they make their bed or any normal thing they might do during the day. These are the things that you do because you’re supposed to do them. I’m not sure how much of this my son understood, but some time sitting on his dad’s lap and some quiet and calm conversation seemed to calm him down and we went on with life.

He didn’t get a car, though.

When I was a child, things were too lean much of the time to get rewards for everyday behavior, and I knew that and largely respected it. The problem came about when my parents would get a windfall of some sort. When that happened, they often wanted to share the windfall with the kids – and that usually meant that I would get some stuff.

When that happened, particularly when I was young (six or seven), I would do exactly what that boy at the barbershop did: I’d throw a fit when my parents made an ordinary request of me, and my parents, knowing they had a windfall to share, would offer to get me something if I behaved.

What did I learn from this? I learned the same thing that the boy at the barbershop learned – a material reward is an appropriate outcome for normal day-to-day behavior. That’s a very dangerous lesson to learn.

This lesson stayed in my mind and traveled with me into adulthood, where I basically just rewarded myself over and over again with stuff. I’d buy things for simply making it through a workweek. I’d buy things just because I finished a project at work. I’d buy things because I “survived” an uncomfortable situation.

Those unnecessary purchases were a big reason I wound up in financial trouble. The rewards were the “norm” in my life – and they were expensive. It wasn’t until I realized that this “norm” was dragging me down – and went through the hard process of breaking that pattern – that things started to turn around for me.

Now I’m a parent, and I have my own children to raise. I understand quite well the temptation to buy those children everything they could want and often it takes personal willpower to resist it.

But then I think about the boy throwing the temper tantrum in the barbershop, and I think back to my own mistakes, and I realize something important: it’s my job as a parent to not have my children associate good but normal behavior with material rewards. Being a good and well-mannered person should be expected and normal – and it should be an example that I set for them.

Associating normal behavior with material gains does nothing more than set my children up for a life of overspending – a life that keeps them from reaching for their real dreams.

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  1. Jessica says:

    Wow! I have never agreed with someone so much on an issue. Being a 2nd grade teacher, I am able to tell which kids get rewarded for everyday things and which ones do their everyday things because they know they are supposed to. I wish everyone felt the way you do about this. Thank you for this post… it gives me hope that there are still some good parents out there.

  2. Jeff says:

    “a material reward is an appropriate outcome for normal day-to-day behavior”

    This is pretty much what happens with a job, isn’t it? You go and do what you’re supposed to do, and you get rewarded for it.

    I think I understand what you’re getting at, but you’re really talking about choices: don’t take that paycheck and blow it on the frivolous.

    With our sons, “being good” and doing the things they are supposed to do gets them a certain amount of allowance, doing less deducts, doing more can add. I believe that’s a perfectly good lesson, just separate from the lessons about wise spending habits.

  3. Michael says:

    Great topic. I hadn’t thought about it from a financial perspective, but I’ve always made it a point to try to show appreciation (non-material) to my kids when they behave appropriately, to reinforce positive behavior as well as getting on to them when they display negative behavior. I think a lot of people don’t show the appreciation for normal, expected behavior and therefore the kids act out to get any attention even if it is bad. I feel like my children understand that if they are well behaved they will still get attention and seem to be happy to do good.

    I think your point is a great one and most people that follow the material rewards route do so perhaps unconsciously because they are not showing the affection that the child is seeking.

  4. Not really the point of the article, but peanut butter does a good job of getting gum out of hair.

  5. moneyclip says:

    The sad thing about this is I feel at least, most parents aren’t following your example and teaching their kids that rewards don’t follow the expectation of behaving normally.

    When I was growing up, bad behavior meant punishment. If I acted up in a store or a barber shop or anywhere for that matter, well my dad would take me by the hand and we’d have a nice walk outside of the establishment and then he’d introduce me to a few rounds of “Mr. Leather” and then we’d walk back into the shop or store and I’d be sucking up sobs and tears and I’d act properly.

    Now I am not advocating beating children for naughty behavior but I learned rather quickly that if I acted like a brat I was going to get punished like one. Of course today this would be child abuse. But that was another time.

  6. John says:

    This relates to a very interesting subject in the psychology of learning. Specifically, the topics of modified behavior through reward.

    The presentation of the reward and its proximity to the desired behavior play a key role in eliciting the behavior in the future. The more quickly a reward is presented to the behavior the more likely (strongly) that reward/behavior association will be created. In your example, when was the reward (Webkinz) presented to the child?

    The reward was presented as soon as the promise was made (especially if such promises were made and upheld in the past). I would assert the temper tantrum was actually being rewarded, as opposed to the good behavior.

    There are many interesting topics relating to parenting in learning psychology. Another being the Partial Reinforcement Effect. Tantrums such as this rewarded on an inconsistent basis are actually more resistant to extinction (a break in the behavior / reward association).

  7. IRG says:

    You hit the nail on the head with this–on both aspects: how it affects children in the short and long term (how we reward ourselves as adults for showing up in our own lives!).

    Alas, far too many parents do “reward” their children in this manner–and children come to expect it and to manipulate parents into doing so. And we’ve all seen the effects of this in adults: Entitlement. Demands for “rewards” at work for just doing the job they were hired to do.
    Expecting goodies in relationships just because they acted as they should have in the first place.

    I remember a small company that I worked in years ago. There were some issues with an employee or two who were not doing their jobs. The owner decided that rewarding them for doing the work they were being paid to do was the only solution. (As the VP of the company, I adamantly was against this, knowing what would happen.)

    She lived to regret that decision, because these same slackers were then looking for more and more rewards for basically just showing up. If you aren’t doing what you’re supposed to be doing, whether you’re a child or an adult professional, rewards won’t make the difference. You can’t “buy” good and appropriate behavior, which is exactly what parents and some organizations try to do.

    You are doing a great service by showing your child the importance of virtue, as it were, as its own reward.

    Reminds me of people who find things and then consider whether to return them to the owner and then spend a lot of time wondering about their “reward.” and those tho are angered, upon returning something, that they are not rewarded.

    It’s not easy to stand strong in the face of so many other parents. Bravo for learning and passing on this important lesson.

  8. Celia says:

    This article is one of your best and most profound. Thanks.

  9. Penelope says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this! I completely agree you and moneyclip and I hope this touches someone out there.

    Unfortunately, Children don’t come with a manual and it’s difficult to look into the future to see how our parenting skills will effect them.

    As a child I didn’t get rewards for being good. I didn’t even get an allowance, which I thought was odd because all of my friends got one. My dad would tell me to just do my chores and he would provide what I needed. He did just that. I lived with the basics and learned to appreciate it. He would give a little extra on Christmas and Birthdays, but that was it. He taught me how to live on the basics, be frugal and choose my purchases wisely. Now, after reading this article, I see appreciate his frugalness. Thank you again for sharing!

  10. Don’t you wish you could forward this post to the mother of that boy?

  11. April says:

    As a teacher, I see a lot of reward-driven mentality among my students. I try to reward only exemplary behavior … that which goes above expectations. Other teachers like to give out candy or other little rewards on a regular basis, and I resent that, because the students then come to me expecting the same. I give out Student of the Month awards in my classes, and I explain why I chose that student (usually good grades, but also effort, improvement and attitude factor in). There’s always the kid who pouts when he or she doesn’t get it, and I ask, “What did you do to earn the award?” I usually get one of two responses: “I behave” or “I do what I’m supposed to.” And I tell them that’s not enough. Between their parents who buy them iPhones and designer clothes and teachers who find it easier to hand out treats instead of demanding civility, sometimes I feel like I’m fighting a losing fight.

  12. Adrienne says:

    While I agree with most of this post (and am probably considered a “strict” parent myself) I want to caution against rushing to judgement against the other mother. You don’t know her situation or the child. Maybe this was an out of the ordinary act for her too. I never have experience more “judgement” from people as I have since becoming a mother.

  13. Kathy says:

    I guess the part that doesn’t make sense to me is why you decided to shell out $10+ for a hair cut rather than $3 for peanut butter or baby oil :)

  14. Elisabeth says:

    I commend you have having a discussion with your son and explaining everything, rather than just caving in, or telling him that that’s just how it is.

  15. Although my children are now grown, I try to teach my three year old grandson about life in a similar manner. Great article! Thanks.


  16. Houston says:

    You see this alot with children getting report cards. Practically every friend I had would get money for every A or B they got. I hated that my parents expected me to do well for myself and not expect a reward, but looking back on it I am so glad they did.

  17. Salsaram says:

    Cheers and thanks for another great post, Trent!
    Hi everyone, please don’t think this is spam. I’m a Marriage and Family Therapist intern and a book I used with a lot of families is “Positive parenting with a Plan” and it really defines how to set boundaries, set up expectations and consequences (both positive and negative consequences). It has helped a lot of families I work with and I use it with my family. Basically it allows you to keep your cool and not react and let the kid know what the expectations are and what will happen. Check it out and I hope it helps!

  18. Jeff says:

    I applaud how you handled the situation with your son. I wish every parent had the same sense as you.

    I’m 27, so I’m not TOO old…but when I was a kid, I was never rewarded for ordinary behavior, or even excellent behavior. Good behavior was expected of me, period. I knew that if I didn’t behave myself, my parents could make my life a living hell if they wanted to. I didn’t get an allowance, and if I wanted extra money I worked for it from the time I was 7 years old.

    One other subject that this article reminds me of is paying kids for getting good grades in school. I never got paid for good grades, but I was expected to get them. Working hard in school and getting good grades was just another expected behavior. Naturally, I don’t agree with giving kids money for getting good grades. My wife, on the other hand, was paid for good grades (X amount of dollars for each A), and she thinks it’s a good idea. It seems like these days, my opinion on this matter is in the minority, so it makes me wonder why kids aren’t expected to work hard in school to get good grades in the same way that they’re expected to behave in social situations. When we have kids, we’ll see how this all plays out. :-)

  19. Lurker Carl says:

    Like Moneyclip, I was raised in a different time. Normal behavior equaled good behavior, it was not rewarded but expected. Bad behavior was quickly taken care of on the spot.

    It’s odd to see mediocre behavior rewarded. It is backwards! Whining in order to be rewarded for better behavior, that’s a bizzare concept to promote in our children. But many adults are stuck in this mode as well, wanting bonuses for meeting their basic job requirements rather than exceeding them. Perhaps Dr. Spock should have raised children himself before telling untold millions how to.

  20. Amen! I completely agree. We do bless our children with rewards sometimes(especially for some exceptional behavior, or sometimes just randomly), but if the only way you can get your kid to behave is to bribe them, it’ll be kind of a downward spiral…you’ll have to keep on bribing more and more to get the desired behavior.

  21. Kate says:

    I never understood the problem with Dr. Spock. I’m not sure that he meant so much to reward good behavior with “things” so much as he advocated the end of corporal punishment which hit a raw nerve with many people (my parents included–Dr. Spock was akin to Satan to them). Dr. Spock also advocated talking to children and explaining things which is what Trent did. Talking to children takes a lot more time and energy than hitting them when they don’t behave. Trent may very well find that his son will test him the next time they go to the barber shop–in fact I would almost expect that might happen. Trent doesn’t have to resort to corporal punishment to convey his expectation that his son behave in a correct way.

  22. m says:

    Just please tell me you aren’t one of those counting parents….1 2 3. The child always waits until 3 before they settle down. My parents were action/consequence kind of folks, I got my butt swatted a few times, but I lived through it, it would happen very fast, spin you around and smack right on the behind. We also knew better then to embarrass our parents in public, we got that little talk, “now we are doing such and such and we expect …..”. Folks confuse child abuse with general punishment, mostly people who have never had children.

  23. P says:

    I so appreciated your post. The same thing can be done with praise. I was raised EARNING praise. If my mom praised the way I baked bread, I KNEW that I was a good bread baker. I married into a family where the sons were praised literally for breathing — they were the handsomest, smartest, best, nicest, every -est in the book — all for just existing. The intent was to build self-esteem but unfortunately it had the opposite affect. They ended up the most arrogant but insecure men who can NOT accept even the most gentle constructive comment that might remotely hint at being criticism. The result of THIS as you can imagine is miserable — unhappy wives & children, eventual multiple divorces, broken friendships, alchohol abuse . . . etc.

  24. Rebeckah says:

    I have to remind myself this constantly! Thank you for this great reminder and this well written post! God bless.

  25. Jeffrey Diehl says:

    This is what has been happening for the last few decades. Children are bribed into normal, good behavior and then the use the threat of bad behavior to get a bribe. As a parent and a physician I see this happening too often among children and parents. I do not condone this behavior and have not played this game. It is too reminiscent of Behavioral Psychology 201, and as others have stated right out of Dr. Spock. I prefer reasoning with and explaining to the child like Mr. Spock.

  26. Lurker Carl says:

    The problem with Dr. Spock isn’t corporal punishment but that he continually changed his mind with successive publications and editions. Not that changing your opinions is a bad thing but it’s not such an endearing trait when dispensing professional advice. Those who followed the good doctor’s advice from the 1940’s had a radically different view from those who used his latest advice. And judging from the biographies where his own children’s viewpoints were included, he didn’t practice what he preached.

  27. Kate says:

    My parents would have read him in the 50’s and perhaps that was the reason my parents thought of him as Satan. I have to say, though, that my parents idea of a spanking was definitely child abuse. It is hard to draw the line between a simple swat and abuse so it might be better to treat children as you would want to be treated. I wouldn’t want to be swatted as an adult and a child shouldn’t be subject to that kind of treatment either.

  28. Pearl says:

    I totally agree with this and it’s why I feel sick to my stomach whenever I hear about people paying their kids to do stuff like dishes or other daily chores. Great post.

  29. Steph says:

    As a teacher, I really struggle with this. Whenever I compliment my students for good behavior they ask what they “get” for being good… like you told your son, I tell my 5th and 6th graders that acting the way you should act isn’t reason enough for a special treat.

  30. Sandy says:

    Stick to your guns, Trent, because if you ever do “give in” to a whiny child, they will know they can get away with anything. That said, I think that good behavior should be rewarded. The next time your son does something really kind, or thoughtful, or selfless…THAT is the time for a reward! Surprising them with this now and again (not every time!) keeps them on their behavior toes, and they learn not that bad behavior gets rewarded, but good.
    I’ve heard that young professionals in recent years are so accustomed to being rewarded for anything (think: the kids on the soccer team all win a trophy, instead of just 1st place)and so corporations hand out things like gift cards to Starbucks, or I tunes, etc…just for showing up and working every day. When I heard this, I thought…how far removed this generation is to the last several, who felt lucky to be working, and certainly not ever expecting a pat on the back.

  31. Maggie Shaw says:

    Why didn’t you shave your son’s head yourself?

  32. Another Marie says:

    I think some of you will find this too close to bribery for your tastes, but I distinguish between bribing – a spur of the moment promise designed to get a child to behave, and normal privileges revoked for bad behavior. (I suppose the important issue is how the kids see it.)

    So they normally have the privilege of playing on the computer every day, but if they do not quit when told so, that privilege is suspended for at least a day.

    Likewise (at least to me), when my oldest was a toddler/preschooler, he loved for me to drive to the top of the library parking garage so we could “be tall”(3 stories). We did this every visit, but if he was naughty, we didn’t.

    If we go to the grocery store in the morning, each child may pick a bagel and then have it with peanutbutter for lunch. Once they were misbehaving and I didn’t let them get a bagel. We went through the checkout line with one child sobbing “I’ll be good. I’ll be good. Please may I have a bagel?” I responded “I’m sure you will be good next time and you’ll get a bagel then” and they had to have their peanutbutter on their normal wheatbread. It was a good five or six months before anyone misbehaved at the grocery store and they quickly stopped when reminded.

    Normally they are allowed to request an alternate route home of their own devising as long as we don’t have groceries melting or it would involve making a left turn without a light at 5 pm, but not if they have misbehaved.

    Other than the bagel (which makes my life easier), none of these privileges involves spending money.

  33. Linda says:

    This is a great topic and I absolutely love the comments. Seriously, I do not think that there is a better gift to give your children than self-discipline. But, having said that, what are the rules when it is just too darn much? When the energy is low and the whining is like nails on a chalkboard, what then? Also, what are the rules on giving to oneself? For instance, if a small windfall comes your way, are you allowed to get the CFBs? Or the smart strip for your PC? If a purchase will benefit you and isn’t frivolous, what is the criteria?

  34. Kevin says:

    Great post, Trent. I hope I can remember this lesson if/when my son acts up in public.

  35. bong florendo says:

    the best way to remove gum that sticked to somebody’s hair is to first soak it in mineral oil. after a few minutes soaking, you can get it off easily. the oil in the hair can be shampooed off afterwards.

  36. Denise says:

    I love this post. My daughter behaved well in public and other parents always commented on it with awe. I said that she wasn’t wonderkid; she behaved well because I expected her to-within appropriate reason. Another danger zone is rewarding a childs good-average behavior with food. I am a former chunky kid and this habit takes a lifetime to break.

  37. J says:

    We have been using a lot of the “Happiest Toddler on the Block” techniques with our child. In particular, the “sticker chart”, where she gets recognition for doing a (positive) behavior that she needs some work on — cleaning up toys, putting clothes in the hamper, etc. We only pick a few behaviors and then in about a month we make up a new chart with new behaviors when the old ones have been established.

    We are finding that spending more time praising exceptional behavior is considerably better for all parties than trying to punish bad behavior. I would agree, though, that “normal” behavior isn’t something that warrants a reward.

    Legitimizing bad behavior by recognizing it can be worse than just plain ignoring it. In my case, my daughter decided that she wanted to throw a fit in the supermarket once because I told her “no”. So first the whining started, the lip trembled and then the crying started. She then laid down on the floor of the supermarket and started having a tantrum. I told her that the answer was still “no”, and walked away. As soon as I was about 30 feet away, the crying stopped and there was no more discussion. Now she knows that when I say “no”, I mean it. Had I gotten out the belt, it would have likely made her cry more — but what I took away was probably worse in her eyes — my attention.

    Now, subsequent tantrums can begin, and I’ll say “Has this ever worked in the past? And she’ll say “No”, then not have a tantrum.

  38. Caroline says:

    And I just read a friend’s blog where she said she decided to take her 1 year old to toys’r’us because she felt bad about getting her vaccinated.

  39. toaduni44 says:

    Next time, use peanut butter to get the chewing gum out of his hair. Seriously.

  40. Ellen says:

    I see my family constantly rewarding their kids to behave or get them to do what they want. So why are they such brats? Teaching your children to be selfish and only working with people if THEY get something out of it does not help them to be a proper person as they get older.

    What kind of employee/employer, husband/wife, mother/father, etc. will they be when they have been taught to live so selfishly.

  41. Ellen says:

    I forgot-the best book that I have found is “Children the Challenge”, it follows this way of thinking and give example of behavior and ways to deal with. It is a must read.

  42. cynthia says:

    being a parent is challenging. it is hard to know what is really happening by judging a moment in time. maybe the child has challenges that we don’t know about and this is the best way for the parent to manage them. maybe something traumatic just happened. i got divorced and for the next year my child acted up, had nightmares and was afraid to leave them. this is normal in that situation. anyway, overall i agree with some of what you say, but i wouldn’t want to be so negatively judged as a parent by someone who only observed me for a short time.

  43. Maha says:

    I find that rewarding good behavior that I expect with praise begets good behavior. Kids want your approval, and if you reward with “good job” and hugs and telling them how proud you are of their behavior, they’re more apt to continue it. I especially do it if it’s a behavior that’s foreign to them.

  44. kirstie says:

    I agree with cynthia. Don’t judge unless you can be sure that you have walked in those shoes.

    Meanwhile, I think the writing of Alfie Kohn (“Punished by Rewards”) is very interesting.

  45. Sarah says:

    I think people can be too quick to judge based on one instance. For example, many autistic kids have a terrible time with haircuts. To be able to sit through one is not “normal” behavior, and, as #22 notes, rewards for meeting challenges can be very motivating. So maybe the kid you saw was autistic and the parents were practicing CBT, Trent.

  46. Carmen says:

    @ Sarah – valid point, but sadly highly unlikely.

    Good post Trent, I agree with you. Although I do think kids of 6/7 are much much harder to handle than 2/3 year olds. Even though they understand so much more. Sorry. (School tiredness?!)

    My 8 year old daughter had her first filling at the dentist today. Very unfortunate since her dental hygiene is great, yet thankfully it was small and in a milk tooth, hence no need for any local anaesthetic! She was so nervous beforehand she said she felt sick. And looked it but I didn’t tell her that. I have never seen her so worried about anything before. But she kept a (nervous) smile on her face the whole time. And I was extremely proud of her attitude. I gave her a big hug before she got into the dentist chair, some verbal praise afterwards and a 10p lolly-pop for the 30 minute drive home. Not ideal since it’s food and sugar based, but a small gesture that she really appreciated. :)

  47. DannaTX says:

    I never received an allowance and I did a lot of chores. My father always said “You get paid everytime you put your feet under the table!” :)

  48. LisaS says:

    I so agree. Children should definitely be praised for good behavior under difficult circumstances, but giving a material reward for meeting basic expectations breeds mercenaries who think they have you over a barrel.

  49. greenfamily says:

    This is an excellent post and I am so appreciative of the positive feedback in the responses!

    When I found out I was pregnant with my 2nd child, I decided to start potty-training my 2 year old son. This was much to the chagrin of many, many “helpful” parents who warned me of imminent failure because (apparently) boys are not physiologically capable of using the potty before the age of 3.

    My response? “That is why it’s called potty-TRAINING.”

    And guess what? My son was completely potty-trained within a couple months, without rewards like candy or punishment like time-out. It was exactly as so many of the parents here responded: children are VERY eager to please and they LOVE hugs, kisses, high-fives, and verbal praise. I was sorely tempted to resort to candy rewards, even raisins like my mom used to do, but I didn’t do that because the bottom line remains: potty training is an essential part of becoming a big boy, and I didn’t want to encourage his expectations of being rewarded for what is normally expected behavior.

    I have to agree with the person who said it is possible but highly unlikely that the 6-7 year old child was autistic or had another problem which contributed to the “rewards” method of behavior management. Unfortunately it does seem to be the way many parents are managing their children these days. I have been a nanny for over 14 years and my experience attests to this trend. I applaud Trent for taking the time to sit down and talk to his son– that habit will reap huge benefits in the future relationship with his son!

  50. Susan says:

    My parents generally didn’t reward bad or good behavior with toys, mainly b/c we didn’t have the means to do so. On the rare occasion I did get a toy after a melt down, I remember feeling very guilty and ashamed and never wanting to act that way again. In that sense, I’m actually glad my parents did reward my bad behavior on one or two occasions. Though I was pretty sensitive, so not sure if it applies to most kids.

    I also remember cherishing a Papa Smurf doll I got as a reward for not crying during my allergy shots. I got them 2x a week and always cried, always wishing I could brave up to get that toy. I’m very thankful my Mom bought that for me the day I stopped my tears, it was kind of a sign to me of growing up and working through a difficult situation I would deal with for another decade.

    But my parents also taught me the value of a dollar and praised my efforts and ingenuity when I saved up my money to buy my own toys. They were very wise in how they rewarded us and taught us about finances.

  51. Sarah says:

    Carmen–my point is simply that since you don’t know, you shouldn’t be so quick to judge. I get impatient with ill-behaved kids in public, too, but I try to keep in mind (not always successfully) the kind of shame and sadness a parent of a kid with a behavioral disorder must have when she gets the hateful, superior looks directed at her whenever she gathers the energy to try to do normal chores in public. Don’t you have enough people in your life who you know are doing nasty things to spend that on, rather than hating on a stranger you know only through an anecdote?

  52. E says:

    I have often talked about this with my brother, who is significantly younger than me. When I was a toddler, my parents had very little money but my mom was only working part time, and I suspect her parenting style was more like Trent’s. By the time my brother was a toddler, my mom was in law school, and my dad was earning a lot more but traveling a lot. My brother learned at a very early age that if he whined enough, he could get what he wanted. Sometimes it took 30 minutes of whining, but he’d hold out and my mom would give in just to get him to shut up. I left home when he was 10, but I’m pretty sure the dynamic continued through high school. He is now in his late 20s and just starting to realize that he can’t just get what he wants when he wants it, when he has to pay for it all.

  53. Sharon says:

    If you read Trent’s post, I don’t see one critical remark about the other parent or child. He simply states what he and his son saw, and how he and his son responded to it. He talks about the dangers of rewards for ordinary, expected behavior. IF he had bought his own son a toy for a haircut, that is what he would have been doing, and he avoided it, remembering lessons from his own childhood. I don’t see where he said a single critical word about the other parent, maybe his own parents, but not that one.

  54. Dreamybee says:

    Wow, thanks for providing a whole new twist on this issue. Everybody talks about how rewarding normal behavior or bribing kids to be good will result in bratty, entitled kids, but I’ve never heard anyone talk about how that carried over into their adult financial lives. I would have never thought of that!

  55. Aggie says:

    As a school teacher, I’m pretty unhappy with our schools new “Positive Behavior Support” plan. We have to give out little tickets for good behavior. When they collect up enough of them, they can turn them in for prizes. It’s not for good grades, good citizenship, good overall behavior, but for little things that children should know already.

    I’d rather call it “Bribery Program”. It rewards the kids who already know how to say “please” and “thank you” and gets the others to join in through greed.

    On the other side of that coin, I have about 15 students (out of 370) who are so psychologically messed up that no amount of bribery is ever going to help them become average citizens. They are constantly in trouble, constantly seeking attention and constantly in the office. These children need more than a reward ticket– they need stability and consistency.

    So bravo Trent for bringing this up. Personal responsibility and respect is much like personal finance– it’s taught at an early age.

    On a second note: I don’t give out allowances, but I do reward good grades. I feel that my own children should treat school like a job. They go, they do their task well enough, they get paid. The money they make from gradecards then becomes the money they make their learning mistakes on. My boys are now very frugal with this money, often saving it for months before making decisions with it. They know they wont get more for another 6 weeks, so they spend a lot of time and effort in planning.


  56. Gail says:

    I taught my children that responsibilities and privileges go hand in hand. Using monopoly money I had them buy privileges that they earned. It involved attitudes and well as deeds. Privileges are not something a child deserves but rather something a parent gives out of love. Many children today, however, expect and demand their privileges . . . pouting, whining, making sarcastic remarks if they don’t get what they want. My system worked well and today my children are well adjusted, self employed, responsible members of society. I recently decided to market my behavior program in order to help other parents whose children have behavior problems. It’s not bribery (my ex-husband called it the same thing). It’s taking responsibility for attitudes and actions and learning the consequences of such.

  57. Gin says:

    I agree with you in part. I do not believe in rewarding kids for expected behaviors. Heck, we don’t even tie the kids’ allowance to chores; chores are expected from all members of our family as part of living in a community. However, my parents never ever rewarded us for expected behaviors either but I did very much the same as you did when I was first out on my own…I rewarded myself for all kinds of things *because* my parents never did.

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