I asked a question to a few wise older women and thought I should share their answers. The question was:

How do you teach a child to be self motivated? Is it ok to use bribes?

This is the response from a woman who has (I think) 7 kids the oldest 2 are in college and the youngest is (I think) 10ish. She and her husband have been missionaries in Africa for a decade or so.

“We have never bribed our kids due to biblical conviction of not appealing to the lust of the flesh.
I always found it good to remind myself that the child is in process, and it is good to set goals so that we have something to encourage them with or hold them accountable to. Another sobering reminder is what example am I setting for the child. Do I complain about cleaning or do I show delight in all that the Lord has for my life? I would pray that the Lord would open my eyes to see the right that the child does, so that I can encourage them in that. They desire to please mom and dad, but it is hard for her to be motivated to please God in her work when her relationship with Him is still immature, but we still need to be talking about Him. At 7 yrs old they are still transitioning from working hard out of the fear of the consequences, to doing it out of love for the person they are working for to doing it out of praise to God.
I am rambling, sorry. Bottom line is that, no we never bribed our children. We also did not threaten them. They knew what was expected of them, and the consequences that would occur if the task was not done. Be consistent. Encouraging words go so much further than we realize. I think most children would rather hear their parents tell them something encouraging than get a toy.”

This next response was from a woman whom I knew in New Zealand. Her kids are between 18 (ish) and 24 (ish) and we really appreciated their parenting style when we lived there:

“Actually no… We kind of figured they should do something simply because we asked them too, so we did not do the sticker chart thing ever, or “if you do this- we will do that for you” We said instead “You are part of this family so you are obliged to particpate- full stop. Howeveer in saying that, we did do the “Freedom within boundaries” thing. So ” You need to mow the lawns by Sunday evening, you can go out etc, but it must be done by Sunday” If it wasnt- they werent allowed out again until it was done. or “You can listen to any music you like, so long as it has Christian lyrics” Or ” Your room needs to be tidied by tomorrow afternoon, and then you can discuss with us about ….. as soon as it is done” We treid to give boundaries, with choice and the ability for them to make decsions within those boundaires, and then we HAD to kick in the consequence. So tonight Tyler has to fill out an insurance form, he has known about it all weekend, he is out now, its 9.37pm and if he doesnt then No car tomorrow- he’s had freedom, but hes got boundaries too. I think we got this from Steve Coveys book of which I am a great fan…
Bribary leads to on going deals that as they get older get harder to make happen… say they want a cell phone- instead of us saying if you get good grades and have a tidy room, you will get a cell phone, we simply said, when you get your license, you get a cell phone… deal! Sometimes we even gave them there requests without there performance attached- grace, but always for a reason.
Hope this helps… In terms of when our kids were younger, Saturdays was JOB DAY. We wrote a list if tasks, first up signed the sheet for the one they wanted to do, and it had to be done by tea time, or no tea. We did not get on there case, just had to be done- or no tea. In terms of school, and homework, again freedom within boiundaries, you can watch TV thats all good, but is your homework done..
Make sure you stay the Mum and boss, not a bribe sytem that could take that control away…just my thoughts”
“Another thing I thought of is that we are training our kids for service in our world, my boss does not bribe me!!!! I do it right at work, because it is right.
Your question also made me ponder what Unconditional love is, and how we show that. If you have a bribe- does that make the expression of our love LOOK conditional to our kids- ie performance based approval. Sometimes we bless our kids regardless of stink behaviuor and sometimes we withhold from them- even if they are little angels. This way we show them that we love them whatever, and the EXPRESSION of our love is NOT based on there good or bad performances.”

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