Bribe or reward?

Bribe or reward?
For helping his sister Putri Iryannie Mohd Kamil (right) with her homework and accompanying her home from a student care centre, polytechnic student Muhammad Izyan Jaizi (left) gets cash rewards from his mum Haryani Habib, which he has used to buy a guitar, among other things.

Aircraft handler Mahmood Ahmad and his housewife spouse know that when they return from breakfast on Saturday and Sunday mornings, their home will be spick and span.

Their youngest child, Mujahid, would have swept, mopped and tidied their five-room HDB flat in Tampines. It is the 13-year-old's turn to do so - and he does it without getting any reward.

The couple's three older children - a 19-year-old son who is in national service and two married daughters living on their own - were similarly trained.

Mr Mahmood, 57, says: "There's no such thing as giving him $10 to wash his clothes, iron them or wash the dishes after dinner. He's supposed to do it for a sense of family togetherness."

Should parents reward their children for good behaviour, whether it is doing household chores or finishing homework?

Mr Arthur Ling, deputy director of Fei Yue Community Services, feels parents will not spoil their children with rewards, provided the family has a good relationship to begin with and if parents explain the reason for the reward. He says: "Otherwise, the reward is just an external transaction - the children don't learn any values."

In his home, he and his 44-year-old counsellor wife expect their three children - aged 11, 10 and four - to pray every morning and evening, memorise a Bible verse a week, and complete school work, practise piano for 10 minutes and read a book daily. This is to "instil faithfulness and build good habits", he says.

He has a chart hung on the wall of the living room in their five-room flat in northern Singapore. The kids tick against each completed task. A month's worth of ticks gets them $10 worth of items from Popular bookstore.

But he makes the distinction between an advance reward - bribery - and one given after the child complies. "Giving the reward first does not make sense because the motivation to get the child towards a desired value, through a desired behaviour, is lost."

Child development expert and principal of Leap SchoolHouse, Ms Esther Yeo, says offering something to correct a misbehaving child is a bribe. "For example, a child is throwing a fit in the mall because you refuse to buy him that toy. To save yourself embarrassment, you buy that toy," says Ms Yeo.

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