Tip: There’s a big difference between a bribe and a reward!


I have often shared personal experiences with you from my days as a school principal. I enjoyed that part of my past life very much. It was always a delight to interact with teachers, students and their parents. I especially enjoyed the children – probably because I am just a grown child myself!

I created three honor rolls at our school in which students could participate: the academic honor roll, for students who made all A’s and B’s on their report card; a different honor roll for good conduct, for students who consistently showed an obedient, cooperative nature; and another honor roll for students who had a good attitude. (The reason I differentiated between the good conduct honor roll and the good attitude honor roll is that I quickly discovered that it was possible for some students to have good conduct, but to have a poor attitude. I encouraged them to have both.)

At the end of each grading period, we would publish the three honor rolls in our school newspaper. We would also announce them over the P.A. system and post them in the hallways. We tried to create a very good experience so that the students would try to achieve new levels of success.

On one particular occasion I was talking to a parent who said, “Why are you always trying to bribe these children? Seems to me that every time I turn around you are offering another bribe to get them to do what they ought to do in the first place!” Because I had some very good mentors along the way toward my educational career, I had a good answer for that parent. And, just in case you have ever had the same thoughts, I would like to share my answer with you so that you can put this issue to rest in your mind once and for all.

I explained to the parent that the dictionary definition of a bribe is a payment used to corrupt the behavior of another person. On the other hand, the definition of reward is payment or recognition for service or merit. In other words, a reward is for doing what is right. I jokingly asked the parent if he expected to receive a paycheck at the end of the week for the work he had done. When he answered yes, I asked if he considered his paycheck a bribe or a reward. After thinking about it for a minute, he said, “I see what you mean. There really is nothing wrong with rewarding someone for doing something right. It is not a bribe after all; it actually is a reward.”

That way of thinking has been a hallmark of the way I operate on a daily basis. Don’t you want to be rewarded when you do something well? I doubt very seriously if anyone would work forty hours per week for a company that paid its employees with a simple pat on the back. I think you want more than that. I think you want a paycheck. I think you want a reward!

That is not to say that we should not sometimes do something just for the sake of doing what is right. I believe that it is important that we do good deeds regardless of the outcome or circumstances. I am just trying to differentiate and delineate between two issues that are very close to each other. When a person is bribed to do something, there is an ulterior motive and a deception involved. But, on the other hand, when a person is rewarded for doing something, it is usually considered to be in association with a worthwhile accomplishment. There is nothing wrong with the fact that we need more than just recognition for our efforts. And, it is okay when we are rewarded publicly for what we do.

Many times we parents think that our children should learn to do chores around the house just for the sake of doing chores. And, it is important that children learn self-discipline, character and integrity as they grow up. But, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with giving a child an allowance for doing a good job as they learn a strong work ethic. As they endeavor to fulfill their job responsibilities, they should have the opportunity to be rewarded for their work as well. Of course, it is up to each individual parent to determine how much they will reward their children and what kind of rewards they will give them, but please do not think it is ever a bribe to pay your child to learn how to work hard, have a good attitude or display good conduct. All of those things constitute a successful life and to be rewarded for those actions is certainly no bribe.

Mark Twain once said that the difference between the right word and almost right word is the difference between lightening and a lightening bug. I think there is also that much difference between a bribe and a reward. Maybe it is time to sit down and think of new ways to reward your own children.

Perhaps you need to learn to reward yourself as well. When you are working toward a goal, decide on an appropriate reward beforehand so that you have something to look forward to once that goal has been achieved. It is a worthy thing to set goals, accomplish them and then to be rewarded for them.

I know I do not mind being rewarded for the good things I do in my life and I would be willing to bet the same is true of you! Right? Of course!

Tip: There’s a big difference between a bribe and a reward!

Have a great week! God bless you!

Dr. Robert A. Rohm


Dr. Robert A. Rohm, Ph.D.

Dr. Robert A. Rohm, Ph.D.

Top selling author and speaker, Robert Rohm Ph.D. is founder of Personality Insights Inc. and The Robert Rohm Co. As you will see, Dr. Rohm specializes in helping people better understand themselves and others.