• Jessica Berk

3 Reasons your reward for kids aren’t working

I’ll be honest. I’ve been known to bribe my kids.

And I don’t see anything wrong with it.

... stay calm and quiet on an airplane, get an M&M…

... sit quietly and have good table manners for Thanksgiving dinner, get dessert…

... get A’s on report cards, go out for ice cream...


Bribes can be a great way of incentivizing immediate behavior and also jump start a solid foundation for new behaviors.


But I talk to lots of moms who say that their child is unbribable.

?! what ?!

No way!


Tell me if any of these examples sound familiar:


“I told Ryan he'd get a doughnut in the morning if he would just stay in bed and stop coming out of this room at night... but he just doesn't seem to care! I swear rewards just don't work with this kid!”


“I’ve gotten so desperate that I said I’d take him to Disney World if he stopped sneaking into my bed in the middle of the night. But he keeps showing up. If Disney World won’t work - it’s hopeless!”

If this sounds familiar - first of all - you're not alone!

You’re just not using the amazing power of bribery the right way!


Here’s 3 Reasons why your rewards for kids aren’t working and what to do:


1. What you’re asking is just too difficult

If your kiddo has been stalling at bedtime for the last 3 month - asking for a million extra things after bedtime - trying to bribe him by simply telling him to stop is just too difficult.

He’s so used to it! All the stalling has become part of his sleep routine.

Bath, books, song, tuck in... and then run out of the room for an hour crying for more water and potty breaks - that’s become his bedtime routine!


The longer behavior continues, the more ingrained it becomes.

Changing that behavior won’t happen overnight.


Try bribing him for a baby step improvement instead like:

- only coming out of his room 3 times

- falling asleep before the 20-minute sand timer runs out

- not asking for any more water after tuck in


2. They’re getting something better than the bribe

If your kiddo is used to crawling into your bed every night and having unlimited access to your snuggles and attention, it’s going to be hard to bribe your way out of that IF he knows that sleeping with you is an option.


If he knows he’s allowed to do it, he will.

No doughnut or future trip to Disney World is going to be a stronger incentive than immediate snuggles at 3am.


In this case, the bribe is not better than the behavior you’re trying to break.

For a bribe to work in this situation, the strong draw of co-sleeping has to be off limits.


3. They know they'll get the reward anyway

Alright, mama, this one is on us.

And we’re ALL guilty of this from time to time!

When your kiddo doesn’t quite do what was required to earn the reward but we feel bad and give it to her anyway.


Oh - it’s so BAD!

It sends such a mixed signal!


When you’re really committed to making changes, you have to be okay with your kiddo not earning the reward and saying “ Oh darn, you didn’t earn your doughnut this morning but let’s try again tonight, I know you can do it. I can’t wait to have a doughnut party tomorrow!”


Now... go put the power of bribes to work for you!



Sleep Tight!

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