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Rewards Versus Bribery

It can be very difficult for parents to know just how strict to be with children who are suffering from mental diseases.  In the excerpt below authors Jennifer B. Freeman, PhD and Abbe Marrs Garcia, PhD explain why setting up goals with rewards can help a child make progress.  Freeman and Garcia’s book, Family-Based Treatment for Young Children With OCD, is specifically designed to provide all the information a family needs to participate in treatment with a child 5-8 who suffers from OCD.  While the book focuses on OCD the excerpt below can be applied to children who are struggling to progress in many types of treatments.

Rewards sometimes sounds like bribing a child to behave, but these rewards are actually very different from bribery. The major difference is that these types of rewards are planned and proactive. Rewards are connected to specific behaviors, both of which have been determined ahead of time. The rewards are set up beforehand to help a child stay motivated to control her behavior and to make good behavioral choices. This is very difference than offering rewards of desperation-for example, giving a toy to a child who is throwing a tantrum to quiet her down or telling a child who won’t stop a compulsion that if she gets in the car now she will get something she really wants. In these situations, rewards are being used to get quick control of a child who is misbehaving or having great difficulty with an anxiety-provoking situation. In this program’s reward plan, you will reward your child for practicing therapy skills and facing her fears-appropriate behaviors you might reward anyway.

Key Components of Successful Reward Programs

When designing a reward program for your child, keep the following key components in mind:

– The plan should be simple and easy to follow-ideally targeting specific, easy to observe behaviors.

-Rewards should be delivered promptly following desired behaviors.

-Rewards should be frequent enough that the child will be encouraged to work toward them.

-Rewards should be something the child enjoys and that the parents are going to feel okay about if children do not get it (e.g., stickers, playing a game, spending time with someone special, food, or a small toy).

-Rewards have to be delivered consistently.

Recent Comments

  1. Roundup. « Condalmo.

    […] Child-rearing: rewards versus bribery. […]

  2. mickie kendrick, kristen dunseth

    We have a boy with ASD, age 7, very high functioning, in our classroom who also has ODD. He has had a huge improvement from last year, 1st grade, (running away, falling to the floor and screaming,doing exactly opposite of classroom directions). There is apparent dysfunction at home with shouting, cussing and violence. This year he is much more aggressive, hitting, kicking, poking with pencils. He has also learned some extremely serious curse words, and uses them liberally. He also echoes Simpson’s (the TV show) dialogue. We are using a reward system with most scenarios in place, however, as he still spends much time in meltdown, when the SE teacher says to him, especially in the moment “If you…I will”, since this frequently involves candy, it is an ongoing issue of noncompliance. But this cussing and threatening is trying on the other children. Do you have a suggestion or a book we can read?

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