How do you know the difference between when you are rewarding student behavior, bribing student behavior or holding them to logical consequences?

This is really important because if you are bribing and bargaining with your students – you are in deep doodoo.  It often sneaks up on you and before you know it – you are selling your soul for a little piece of mind in the classroom.

Not any more because I have some Teaching Truth for you!  I love teaching truths!

The true reward is the satisfaction of doing the right thing.  It builds character.
Many teachers get confused about the difference between rewarding and bribing.  Isn’t it all the same thing anyway?   Nope.  Not even.

I can give you the bottom line in two words:  compensation and persuading.   It is that simple.  Here is an example of how this works:

FiFi the poodle is running wildly out the front door and down the street. (Hey – sometimes it could be a student. . . .)

  • SCENARIO 1:  You call to FiFi and say “Stop!  Sit down Fifi!”  Fifi obeys you and sits down.  You go and give Fifi a doggie treat.  You just rewarded Fifi for correct behavior (doing the right thing).  Fifi has been compensated for doing what you asked.
  • SCENARIO 2:  You call to FiFi and say “Stop! Sit down FiFi!”  But FiFi keeps running.  You call your command again.  No response from FiFi.  You are worried about her safety so you rush to get a treat and anxiously say, “Look FiFi, come to me and you can have a treat!”   FiFi stops running from you and turns around to come for the treat. You are bribing FiFi into doing what you want her too.  You have just persuaded Fifi.

Do you see the difference?  Let’s break it down even further.  How does it look in the classroom:

Rewards are used to REINFORCE appropriate behavior.  A student is asked to complete a paper first thing each morning.  The student complies and does as he was asked.  He is rewarded for his appropriate action with a trip to the treasure chest on Friday.

Bribes are used to persuade students to do what you want them to.  But here is the catch.
Say for example, this same student is asked to complete a paper first thing each morning.  The student does not do the work and even worse, distracts other students from their work.  The teacher is at his wits end with the lack of work being done.  “Hey!”  he says to this student, “If you finish your work every morning this week – we will have a movie on Friday.”  The student responds (with a sparkle in the eye) “Can I pick it?”  “Sure” replies the teacher.

  • The student was bribed into doing the appropriate behavior.
  • The student DID NOT demonstrate any personal motivation to do what is expected.
  • Respect and responsibility are completely missing from this situation.  In fact, the student was ignoring the teacher's instructions outright.

While rewarding students has it pitfalls, it does demand that the student is demonstrating personal responsibility to do the right thing.   This is a good thing.

Whereas bribing actually REINFORCES that the student does not need to do the right thing to get what they want.  They can manipulate and hassle the teacher into rewarding them for doing the wrong thing!

SALLY'S TEACHING TRUTH – it never works to bribe and bargain with your class!  It is setting yourself up for more chaos!  Yikes!

The most effective method is logical consequences.  It does not reward or bribe.  It teaches and guides!  (The Classroom Management Boot Camp dives into this big time.)

In the comments below tell me – Where do you think the Light systems fit in (like the red light/green light and similar methods)?  Are they rewards?  Bribes?  Logical consequences?  Love to hear your opinion!!