Bribing Our Kids to Comply?……..Is that Okay? Seeking Input: Parents and PWDs

BribeThere was a discussion on one of the sites recently from a mom who stated that she felt guilty when she bribed her child regarding diabetes care.

There was an entire ‘thread’ on what people thought.  Some gave really creative and solid answers.  I reached out to two people who I deeply respect.

Jill Weissberg-Benchell, Ph.D., C.D.E., who is Pediatric Psychologist, Associate professor of Psychiatry, Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois; and also Korey K. Hood, PhD,  who is Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and Staff Psychologist at UCSF’s Madison Center for Pediatric Diabetes.

These two professionals said the following:

Jill Weissberg-Benchell:  I’m not a fan of bribing.  I am, however, a big fan of the concept of “when/then” rules. What entails is saying something like:  “When you check your blood sugars, Then you can watch TV”.  Or “When you check your blood sugars, Then you can use the keys to my car”.  It works for non-diabetes related things to, like: “When you finish your homework, Then you can go out to play”.  This helps kids learn that the “must-do’s” of life have to be completed before the “wanna do’s” get done. 

Korey K. Hood: The short answer is YES, it is okay. The longer answer is that when parents ask if it is okay if they bribe their kids, they are usually asking if it is okay to give them something – money, rewards, time on the computer – when a diabetes management behavior – checking a blood sugar, taking insulin, rotating sites – happens. It is important to first point out that bribery usually implies giving something to get something, but usually in a dishonest or illegal way. So, what parents are asking about is not bribery. This is actually positive reinforcement, which we know from decades of research is very effective. For example, when a parent gives the child 15 minutes of computer time for each blood sugar check, they are adding a consequence that will increase the likelihood of that behavior happening again. If parents choose to make that consequence a certain amount of money or something else, it serves the same purpose. Positive reinforcement is very powerful at changing behavior, so find a reward your child likes and give that each time he/she does the behavior you want him/her to do. Also keep in mind that diabetes management is not naturally reinforcing or particularly fun, so by adding something positive you are not only increasing the chances of it happening again, you are making it a little more tolerable.

So it would seem that although it may be called a bribe to you; it can also be called positive reinforcement and/or the ‘when/then’ rules.  Both professionals offer great insight to this subject and I hope it helps in another day with diabetes.

What do you think PWDs AND parents—-feel free to share your thoughts.

I am a diabetes dad.

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3 replies on “Bribing Our Kids to Comply?……..Is that Okay? Seeking Input: Parents and PWDs”

Sometimes its helpful to bribe a child. Though I have seen too many parents use it where its just because they want a screaming child to stop screaming. I personally have diabetes but I was never bribed as a child to do something. My step son is sometimes bribed to do things (he’s 7) but he’s also special needs (autistic, developmental delays, etc). My youngest son (21 months) does understand that when he’s told to do something and he does it he gets a treat for doing it or being good.

We have used “bribery” in the past with diabetes-related tasks, and I am certain we will use it in the future. We all talk about what a huge job diabetes is—how it takes time and brain power. It detracts from the flow of life when we have to stop to check blood sugar, treat a low, dose a high, look up carbs for the treat we are indulging in, change a site, order refills, argue with the insurance company, on and on and on.
The experts are fond of saying that a kid’s job is to be a kid. Well, my kid has two jobs then. There is not an adult on this earth who would work around the clock, day after day, never receiving a paycheck, and keep doing it for the rest of his life. I am fine with providing incentives for diabetes tasks when the motivation is low. I see a “bribe” as the equivalent of a paycheck for a job done well!

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