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Bribes versus Rewards



We've focused on rewards the past couple weeks and we stand by our belief that rewards are quite different from bribes. Today we'll discuss three key differences.


Rewards are intentional; bribes are desperate.

A true reward is planned and discussed with the student so he knows exactly what to expect. It is something that you KNOW will motivate him because it is something he loves that he got to help choose. Bribes tend to increase in magnitude in an attempt to coerce, and some students will wait as long as possible to comply to see just how much their guardians are willing to bend. 


Rewards foster intrinsic motivation; bribes increase the power struggle.

Rewarding effort in practice encourages practice to happen more consistently, which in summary helps students grow to love the piano and develop intrinsic motivation. Bribes have the opposite effect. Again, bribes often have to increase to get the same results, increasing the dependence on extrinsic motivation and providing a negative connotation and association with practice. "Mom HAS to bribe me because practice is such a chore!" As resistance increases, so does the power struggle.


Rewards respect agency; bribes paint the bribes as the "bad guy."

Rewards are clear black and white. "If you do _____, you EARN _____. If you do not, you do not earn. The choice is yours." This puts the responsibility of remembering and following through with practice on the student instead of the parent. That's as it should! Once again, this is part of developing intrinsic motivation. Bribes, on the other hand, reflect the appearance that a student is being forced out of desperation. It puts the responsibility on the parent to frequently remind her youth to practice AND constantly come up with ideas to influence him to do so. 


We hope you can see how rewards are liberating and supportive. They teach responsibility, agency, and consistency; they promote intrinsic motivation. Bribes will never accomplish any of those things. We encourage you to recognize the differences so you can feel GOOD about using a reward system!


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