A friend said something to me last week.
"If you give your child the 'treat' before she does what she's supposed to do, it's a bribe. If you give it to her afterwards, it's a reward."
She had heard this from her pediatrician. I thought that was really interesting....
My son forgot to bring some homework home last weekend. My first thought was to take away a game he had just gotten. Video games, computer time and TV time are the first things we take away when he is in trouble. But then I got to thinking that the game was a REWARD for something he already did. It felt crummy to take away something he had just earned.
My husband wondered if we were going to go by the school and get what he forgot. I have keys. We could have done that. But I didn't want to bail him out like that. I can't do that when he is in middle school. What would it teach him if I bailed him out?
My son said he could get the homework done at school. I decided I'd let him try. If he could pull his fat out of the fire on his own, okay. He'd learn a couple lessons that way - to fix his own messes and to remember his homework in the future so he doesn't have to scramble like this again.
This parenting thing is tough sometimes - where do you help and coach and where do you step back? Where do you dole out consequences and where do you let circumstances do that? When do you offer rewards (not bribes) and when do you let the satisfaction of the work speak for itself?