We all know the general idea of bribery. Most often, when you think of the word "bribery," it conjures up images like corporate or political corruption, business scandal, and so on. Well, bribery also occurs inadvertently in our work with children. While it certainly looks different than it does in other settings, a similar principle applies. More specifically, bribery with children teaches them that, "when you're not doing what you should, I'll offer you a payoff to start doing it."
How does this apply? Consider the following examples: When your kiddo is having a meltdown at Target because they really want that magical bubble wand, and you give it to them to "keep them quiet," there's your bribe! Or when you're at Disneyland and your sweet princess wants a candy necklace (which was not originally in the plan), and she starts crying. You offer the candy necklace, and the matching Disney Princess tiara to keep the peace. Where's the distortion there?
Keep in mind that as parents you do not have to win every battle. Were you absolutely wrong in the above scenarios? Not necessarily. The question remains, "are there better ways of doing it?" Consider the following to help in these situations. Before your kiddo starts engaging in inappropriate behavior to get what they want or need, offer choices, use a token system (which we can explain in another post), proactively allow your child to earn reinforcers without having to engage in inappropriate behavior. Easier said than done, sure, but that's where your neighborhood ABA company comes in! Ask for help. Map out a plan! Patterns LOVES helping in these situations because they're socially-significant and hugely critical in the health and well-being of families.
The main idea is to be proactive. In the scenario above, you would have given a first/then statement the moment you arrive at Target such as, "First we're going to finish getting the things on our list, then if we do it while staying quiet and calm, we can swing by and get the magic bubble wand!" The difference in doing it this way is that you offered the reinforcement while your child was still calm. This "calmness" is ultimately the behavior that you want to reinforce. Try to avoid reinforcing inappropriate behavior by providing, offering, or making mention of preferred items or activities when inappropriate behavior is occurring. Offering these items or activities before the inappropriate behavior occurs is simply good practice and falls within effective reinforcement guidelines. Let us know if you have questions! Post scenarios to get our insight if you feel stuck or have questions. Cheers!