- IF you eat your vegetables THEN you can have ice cream
- IF you do your homework THEN you can play on the iPad
- IF you have a bath THEN you can watch TV
Sound familiar but wondering why I wrote what I did?
Using the word if essentially turns the request into a form of bribe and reward.
In this context, using IF essentially gives a child a choice, the cooperative choice being rewarded. The ice cream, iPad and TV become conditional. If they cooperate and eat their veggies, they get an ice cream. Don’t cooperate = no reward.
In the short term, this technique might work (what kid doesn’t want ice cream!) but it is well known that prolonged use of bribes and rewards generally do not bode well for children or the relationships you have with them.
For a blog on the perils of using bribes and rewards read here.
Let’s look at what happens when you substitute WHEN for IF:
- WHEN you eat your veggies THEN you can have ice cream
- WHEN you do your homework THEN you can play on the iPad
- WHEN you have a bath THEN you can watch TV
By simply changing the word IF to WHEN, the request can no longer be seen as a lure to the reward. It’s unconditional. It is a statement. There is still choice but the ice cream is not seen as a reward for cooperating.
The only remaining thing to do is mean what you say and follow through.
WHEN you do this, THEN your children will learn that you mean what you say!
Try it and see for yourself. Let me know how it works.