Reward vs. Bribe

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Billy

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A comment was made in another thread about coaches bribing the kids with candy when they get a skill. And that made me wonder. When does a reward become bribery? At our gym, when a girl gets a new skill, she gets to ring the bell and everyone stops to watch her perform the new skill. Then she gets to choose a prize (usually a hair scrunchie or a piece of candy) from the prize box. So is this bribery or is this a reward for learning a new skill? What makes the difference?
 
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midwestgymmom

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Aug 27, 2006
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Thank you for posting this. When I went to bed last night I had the same thought too and wondered if I should have posted a thread asking what the difference was.

I will confess.
I know we have gotten dd things as a reward for getting a new skill that she had previously struggled to get. And we have bribed her (with the coaches blessing) like - "I'll get you a new leo if you do your backhandspring without a spot at the meet." Knowing full well she could do it and coach knew she could she just needed that little motivation to believe in herself.
 
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Billy

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See, we've done some of that, too, usually to encourage her to get over a fear or conquer something that's been giving her trouble. With DD, it's Webkins. She doesn't get something for every thing, nor every skill. But there have been a few things she's struggled with (fear after a fall on the high bar, for example, or getting her vault when it was the final level 4 skill she needed) and we've offered those as encouragement. I don't think that's bribery but I also confess that I don't really know the difference. And if there is a difference, where is the line?
 

bogwoppit

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Shawn, IMHO, I would say the way new skills are dealt with in your DD's gym is perfect. The reward applies to every new skill, whether the child has only been working it for a day or has struggled with it for years. Each girl also has the same offer on the table all the time, equal and fair and very clear.

It won't feel like punishment if the child doesn't get the skill as the "reward" is not restricted to any one moment in time.

I think a bribe is more of an issue when it is attached to a particular skill and time frame. As in, I'll buy you an outfit if you win a medal or I'll buy you that doll you wanted when you get your BWO on high beam. The girls all want to get skills/medals, they only have control over what they are capable of, adding another layer of pressure may be just too much for some girls to handle.

My little DD's coach hands out a treat after meets to the girls in her group that stayed on the beam, the ones who fall still get a little something, but not as much. Does seem to motivate.

I am a bit backwards, when my girl doesn't place at a meet, I will buy them a new leo (they have lots of leos!:eek:) My girls, like all our girls, really want to place, but sometimes their best is just not good enough, so I figure a new leo will heal the pain. But, it may be counter productive too, who knows.

As parents we do the best we can with the information we have. I had more of an issue with the coach offering a bribe to one girl.
 
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Billy

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I guess I look at the Webkins deal as a reward because the offer is not ever "off the table" so to speak. For example, we told her we'd get her a Webkin when she got her vault because vault is her weakest event and it was the last skill she needed for level 4. We did not give her a time frame ("you have to get it by next Thursday") or anything. It was to encourage her. And it worked. She was able to get her vault that same week. We have done the same thing with a skill she was struggling with, too, but there was a time frame. She was afraid to jump to the high bar because she had a scary fall. So we told her we'd get her a Webkin when she did her jump to the high bar regularly for a week. The idea was to help her over her fear by encouraging her to do the skill over and over, not just once. And that worked, too. Now she's back to loving bars.

Part of it is her age. At 6, she can't really see the long term benefit of getting over being scared of the jump. She's not thinking of winning meets that are still six months away. She's thinking of right now, this moment. So the argument that getting the skill and competing it well are reward enough doesn't really apply when they are still so young and can't really see that far ahead.

Also, we usually get her some memento from each meet but it has nothing to do with how she did. We treat each meet as a special occasion (a little souvenir and her choice of restaurant for dinner/lunch). But to me, getting her something because she placed/ scored well would have a negative impact (a punishment, if you will) when she doesn't do so well. So we don't do any kind of reward based on meet performance.
 
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midwestgymmom

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Aug 27, 2006
661
midwest
I suppose a bribe is before they do it saying " If you get your backwalkover on the beam I'll buy you something " :p

and a reward would be after they got their backwalkover on beam saying "Wow you did your backwalkover on the beam ! I'm going to buy you something!" :)

Of course it could be blackmail if you say"if you dont do you backwalkover on the beam you have to clean your room":mad:

:dunno:
 

midwestgymmom

Active Member
Aug 27, 2006
661
midwest
Shawn, IMHO, I would say the way new skills are dealt with in your DD's gym is perfect. The reward applies to every new skill, whether the child has only been working it for a day or has struggled with it for years. Each girl also has the same offer on the table all the time, equal and fair and very clear.

It won't feel like punishment if the child doesn't get the skill as the "reward" is not restricted to any one moment in time.

I think a bribe is more of an issue when it is attached to a particular skill and time frame. As in, I'll buy you an outfit if you win a medal or I'll buy you that doll you wanted when you get your BWO on high beam. The girls all want to get skills/medals, they only have control over what they are capable of, adding another layer of pressure may be just too much for some girls to handle.

My little DD's coach hands out a treat after meets to the girls in her group that stayed on the beam, the ones who fall still get a little something, but not as much. Does seem to motivate.

I am a bit backwards, when my girl doesn't place at a meet, I will buy them a new leo (they have lots of leos!:eek:) My girls, like all our girls, really want to place, but sometimes their best is just not good enough, so I figure a new leo will heal the pain. But, it may be counter productive too, who knows.

As parents we do the best we can with the information we have. I had more of an issue with the coach offering a bribe to one girl.
:goodpost:

As for the bolded part thats what we did with dds first 2 yrs in level 4. I would by her a leo at every meet because she felt bad about not placing. Last yr she placed repatedly at every meet so I didnt have to buy any. Of course she didnt get any new leos last yr so she out grew 12 and had no replacements:p
 
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Billy

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From Dictionary.com:
"Reward- something given or received in return or recompense for service, merit, hardship, etc.
Bribe- anything given or serving to persuade or induce"

So, if it's promised ahead of time, it's a bribe (to persuade or induce an action or behavior). If it's given after the fact (in response to merit or achievement), it's a reward. Hmmm.... interesting. Guess I'm guilty of a lot of bribery! :D I'll ease my guilt by calling it encouragement. LOL
 

gym mom

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Sep 8, 2007
724
florida
I have done the webkinz thing also she takes advantage of spotting .like last week they were practing rhbh on the floor and the coach told her she did a 2 finger spot and the same with her fhc on bars .last season did the same thing with mill circle but when she competed at the meet she got it .I just give her an xtra push do not know if it is right or wrong .But parents do the same things for doing good on test or report cards at school
 

Scout's Mom

Member
Oct 2, 2007
89
Texas
As an "old" mom (my oldest is in her mid-twenties), I can tell you that bribery is an issue with far-reaching implications. It's not just when it's used for sports but for other things such as grades and behavior as well.

When a bribe is "out there" it teaches a child that there must be an "outside stimulus" to accomplish a goal. As parents, it's up to us to teach our children to achieve a goal for their own satisfaction.

Children also have to learn that there are consequences for not achieving a goal. In gymnastics, you won't score well or move on to the next level. In school, you don't pass, or get selected for the special projects. At home, if you your behavior isn't good, you don't get to have a friend over.

Over and over, in gymnastics, I've seen bribery escalate from candy and stuffed animals to cell phones and computers. It's insatiable!

Gymnastics is an amazing place to learn life lessons if we allow it to! As parents, the hardest thing to do is to watch your child struggle; but when your child is struggling, it's the best time for them to learn how to handle life.

Reward is a whole different deal if it's handled appropriately. When my child accomplishes a goal that has been difficult, the first thing I do is to ask her how it feels. Then we call dad to brag. Then we'll brag about it to her siblings at dinner, etc. We might go out and get a Slurpee to celebrate, but that's about it.

Honestly, I think that the children that develop that inner motivation, last longer at this sport.

Okay, I'm off of my soap box! I hope I didn't offend anyone.
 
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gracefulone

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My sister, the less motivated of the two of us girls, was given rewards for things like doing her BHS alone, and things like that. Now she's in softball, so for every ball she doesn't let get past her, she gets a dollar. Me, my parents never ever had to promise these things;I was self-motivated. My dad and I did like to make bets though, and yes, they were competitive. It would be like how many meets it would take me to get the nationals score(this one was hilarious-he said it would take 6 meets...and I did it on the first one!) For next track season, we have an all-cash bet. If I go no higher than my best this year (9'6" pole vault), I owe him $10. But if I make that, he owes me. If I make 10', it's $20, and if I get to 11', it's $30. And for every time my starting height is below 8', I owe him $10. We've done these because I didn't like the idea of a bribe, but was jealous of little sister getting rewarded! They also did the type of thing where if I had a good meet or did something special(like when I placed at nationals my first time going), they bought me something I had had my eye on.
 
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Billy

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I do understand how bribes/ rewards can escalate out of control. I think a large part of it is knowing your child. My DD is very self-motivated but she's also incredibly hard on herself and her frustration can sometimes get the better of her. But once she knows she can do something, there is no stopping her. For example, she was having trouble getting the side handstand twist dismount on the beam. So we did the Webkin deal and she learned to get it more consistently. Now, she practices it at home and gives herself goals like "I have to do 5 beautiful dismounts in a row." So the Webkin didn't detract from the skill but rather it encouraged her to overcome her frustration. When she gets older, she'll be able to understand the long term rewards of over coming a difficulty (ie. being able to score well at the meets) but right now, she can't think that way.
 

gymgymgymnast08

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I'm usually self motivated enough. But in like level 4 or 5 when I was like really kinda bad my mom would be like I'll give you $10 if you land 10 handstands in a row on the beam. ( This was at home.) But after the first time I did it she didn't pay me anymore for it.
 

bogwoppit

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Shawn just to be clear, I wrote my post in reply to your first post, I didn't see your other posts until now as I was out.

My only issue with the Webkins type deal is that there will always be a skill that they are stuck on or afraid of.

Biggest DD had her layout of bars when she was 9, she has since become afraid of it and will only do her tuck. Her tucks on floor come and go, she has been injured a lot and is fearful. If I bribed her for every skill she needed or was afraid of at one time or another I would be bankrupt, she would be very spoiled and would never learn to desire the skill for the feeling of success alone.

My kids are older than yours and over time I have definitely realized that some kids are much more internally motivated to achieve than others. That said I think I really think it is better if all kids find their own drive, and don't feel that their parents are too emotionally invested in there lives.

I try to keep gymnastics about my girls and not about my need to have them be what I think they can be, they have to want it more than me, or it just won't work.

Of course this is all my opinion and at the end of the day we are all individuals.
 
Jul 12, 2008
90
Charleston, WV
See, we've done some of that, too, usually to encourage her to get over a fear or conquer something that's been giving her trouble.
We have done the same thing especially when they are afraid of doing something that won't hurt them like a back tuck off the beam or something. Usually has the skills get harder, they sometimes will get like stuffed animals. Actually right now, who ever does 7 free hips handstands in a row on bars will get $5.

The problem comes down to if a kid doesn't care about the prize and they just refuse to do something. So what do you do? Raise the bribe or just forget the whole thing?
 
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Billy

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The problem comes down to if a kid doesn't care about the prize and they just refuse to do something. So what do you do? Raise the bribe or just forget the whole thing?
I would think then that kid may not be in the right sport. If they won't even try, then there's no way they're going to get the skill, is there?
 

gym law mom

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I think one problem that surfaces with the rewards or bribes can be is the child doing the skill just for a material gift(webkins, leo etc) or is she doing it for her own self satisfaction? Giving rewards or bribes to kids for certain scores or placements at meets can be going down a real dangerous path. Nobody has control over the scores except the judges and while you're child may have done well, another girl does just slightly better on that day. We had a girl at our former gym that was promised all kinds of nice things--new cell phone, puppy etc. based on her winning AA at what her parents determined to be meaningful competitions. So, when she "only got 3rd" in an AA she would start bawling out on the floor because she wasn't going to get her new cell phone.

Success is something you and your child should cherish and celebrate, but in a reasonable manner and they start understanding that they did it because they put forth the effort and achieved it. Sometimes kids just like a nice hug and an "I love you and am proud of you" makes them feel like the most important person in your life----without all the gifts.
 

gymdog

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I think it has to be treated carefully, although it can have a place. I've never dealt with a program that does a reward for EVERY new skill for everyone, but I don't necessarily have a huge problem with it (see below for my initial reservations). For a garden variety, just not getting it fast enough roadblock, I think for both coaches and parents, moving to bribery should not be the thing that comes up as a solution, per se. Team kids most likely went through levels 1-3 and got everything relatively fast, but that won't always hold true at the team levels and due to natural strengths and weakness there are going to be places they struggle. I think that an outside bribe can make kids work harder, but I've also observed it to reinforce some things in the young athlete's mind that I would consider negatives, and it doesn't handle it as matter of factly as I like.

On the other hand rewards are nice so they know their hard work isn't going unnoticed. If I see someone working hard, I make a point of saying it loud enough for everyone to hear. If someone is consistently trying hard on their stretching and conditioning, they can lead. If someone is listening well and cooperating, they can demonstrate. I prefer rewards that are related to effort and team citizenship rather than related to gymnastics ability. Some girls will still breeze through level 4, 5, 6 quite easily and with less effort than someone else. This is what would concern me with a blanket "reward for every new skill" policy, because it doesn't mean they are trying their best and coming with a good attitude every day, and it doesn't mean a girl who isn't getting the skills isn't trying her best and has a bad attitude. It might get discouraging for the latter set to watch someone who cheats through conditioning and misses turns to constantly get attention for new skills...and there are girls who do those things that get skills at the lower levels.

I think that has the potential to create a culture where rewards come from just doing something in the short term and then you move on to get the next reward. I would rather that girls appreciate that, for example, conditioning to their limit with good form every day will make skills look better and easy down the line. That is hard with little kids 6-10 and requires continuous feedback. I think for a lot of coaches laziness is our worst enemy and it's easy for us as well to resort to things that we observe as getting short term results. I had a coach at one point for a short period that was very "carrot stick" in that way (not with actual rewards, we were mostly teenage L9-10s at the time) and he was all right and could get people to make quick improvements by throwing something short term, but ultimately the situation literally just fell apart and his attitude and the constant threats and favoritism played a major role in it. That taught me a lot about bitter people who constantly seek credit and try to get credit without putting any real work or heart in.

Anyway, heck I was in groups with girls in L6 whose parents were bribing them just to go to practice, needless to say they were never optionals. I think most people understand where the reasonable lines are. If you're crossing them, you have to step back...if it's still working all right I don't think you necessarily need to analyze too far or worry that rewarding your daughter for a skill once is going to set her down the dark path of instant gratification. At the same time I think we need to realize that a lot of the more troubling aspects of our culture and some things we want our children to reject are related to a desire for instant gratification.

It's one thing to say "I noticed you have been working really hard and I am proud of you. I want to take you for ice cream/shopping for a new shirt on Saturday" and another to say "if you beat Sally Smith tomorrow you can get a cell phone." I got straight As in school and my dad used to try to give me money for it. My parents still try to give me money for things like that. I think it's the most ridiculous thing. There is NO way that at the beginning of each grading period I was thinking, hmm, I'll get money if I get straight As so I think I'm going to do that. It had nothing to do with that and even if it did there's no way I could have sustained 7 IB classes, volunteer work, and gymnastics my last two years of high school solely based on rewards. I did those things for a lot of reasons, some of them good, some of them bordering on a little destructive if I'm honest, but it wasn't for money.
 
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