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Positive Reinforcement vs. A Bribe - Effective Strategies  for Motivating Your Child​

Generally speaking when children are not motivated to do things they may require some type of incentive to complete the task.   Reinforcement can be a great tool to help shape behaviours.   What is key in utilizing something to motivate is in how it is utilized, specifically when it’s offered.


  1. Be sure to offer the incentive BEFORE you place a demand.  This is way it is not because they are misbehaving that you are offering it, but rather because they did what you requested.


                       i.e. “Remember if you can stay with mom in the grocery store and not 

                       ask for treats to buy, when we leave I have a treat in my purse for you.”  


 2. Ensure the reinforcement occurs right after the target behaviour you are looking for.


                        i.e. “first clean your room and then you can watch that TV show you wanted”


 3. Providing reinforcement correctly should see an increase in the desired behaviour.


 4. Reinforcement becomes a bribe when it’s offered after the problem behaviour and just like above behaviour will             increase in this scenario, just not the behaviour you want.  In this scenario you are teaching your child that doing t         the behaviour you don’t like will get them what they want.


 5. Remember not all reinforcement has equal value for each child, so be sure you have checked in first to know if a             child desires what you have.  If they don’t want it and it’s offered after they do something desired, they are not as           likely to repeat that behaviour. 

 Establish reinforcement      Make the request       Target behaviour       Provide reinforcement        DESIRED BEHAVIOUR                                                         of your child                      occurs                                                                  MORE LIKELY TO                                                                                                                                                                                            REOCCUR

           Make a request       Non-compliance/problem      Provide an incentive to       PROBLEM BEHAVIOUR IS 

             of your child                behaviour occurs                   comply = BRIBE                       MORE LIKELY TO


- Michele Shilvock, Behaviour Analyst

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