By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It might be an M&M to sit on the potty, a little toy for behaving in Target or a dollar for 10 minutes of peace and quiet.

Sounds like a negotiation you’ve recently had with your child? Well, we’ve all been there.

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But is it OK to bribe our children? Good question.

Parenting expert Toni Schutta says it’s alright, but only under certain conditions.

“There are some situations where it’s necessary as a parent,” Sam Wunderlich said.

Wunderlich, of Inver Grove Heights, is a mother of three with another one on the way. She said she will sometimes promise a fruit snack in the car to get her son gets dressed.

Wunderlich’s friend, Jordan Furry of Inver Grove Heights, said she’ll let her kids watch TV later if they promise to be good.

“If you’re talking about using rewards as incentives, yes, you can use rewards. But use them sparingly,” parent coach Toni Schutta said.

She prefers to reframe the discussions in terms of rewards rather than bribes.

“I like to use rewards to target a specific behavior,” she said. “If you would like to get your kids to listen for the first time, then target that behavior of when they are listening the first time with some reward.”

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For example, Schutta recommends using rewards for activities like potty training.

It’s a method father Steve Clem used for his now 4-year-old daughter Mallory.  She was trained in three days.

“It’s a reward. She did what she was supposed to do and eventually you take away the reward and it’s a learned behavior,” Clem said.

University of Minnesota family professor Dr. Bill Doherty says bribes and rewards can get very tricky and very dicey very fast.

He would allow bribes or rewards in rare cases, but warns against offering them for everyday activities. He said you don’t want a child’s motivation for everyday chores to be external.

“But, if it’s something special, like helping to clean the basement, go for it. It can be fun,” Doherty said.

Schutta recommends a reward that’s meaningful to children, like extra story time or playing a game with a parent, after they do what they’re supposed to do.

“I wouldn’t bribe them with treats, I wouldn’t bribe them with money,” Jill Fitzhenry, of Savage, said. “When my kids were little, I used to bribe them with my time.”

As for using money as a reward, Schutta says that’s a big no-no, even though a recent poll of 2,000 parents found 55 percent of parents give their kids money if they’ll behave.

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“Because they have to behave because it’s the right thing to do,” she said. “They have to learn to respond to you and behavior that you require of them.”

Heather Brown