Trophies, Allowances and Bribes… oh my!

With all this talk about participation trophies and awards ceremonies, it has me thinking about allowances, rewards and even bribes for everything from chores to grades to sports. And from the conversations, I’ve had with other moms… it’s a polarizing topic. Incentivizing our kids, is it good/bad/necessary? 

Parents are all over the map. Some view things like chores and good grades as basic expectations, or even trade-offs for shelter and food. While others see allowances as something that can be earned weekly, and in some cases earned for doing nothing.

And then there are sports incentives (aka bribery). Which I recently learned was a thing. My gosh, have I been living under a rock?

Right or wrong, we live in a society where we are continuously trying to motivate and reward incentivizing our kids to do something. A recent Tampa Bay Mom Blog post discussed the topic of elementary school awards and graduations… another point of view on this whole conversation.

Carrot Incentive

What happened to inspiring kids to achieve their best and work hard because they want to?

Actually putting in the work in, day after day, falling down and getting back up, to earn the accolades and recognition on their own? Fast forward a few years and kids aren’t going to remember the X they got for doing Y. But what kids will remember and what will transfer into their teen years and eventually adulthood is work ethic, persistence, resilience, and adversity. Life skills. Those skills learned early and practiced often, will be much more valuable as these kids grow older instead of expecting something in return for everything they do.

Since I’m not an advocate of dangling a carrot to motivate my kids, I’ve decided that I won’t use money as a motivator for chores either.  

Chores are the expectation of everyone living under my roof. 

Money or screen time for chores for incentivizing our kids, what’s your take? I want my kids to learn that taking their dishes to the sink, cleaning up their playroom and putting their clothes is part of their job as a member of this family. It’s how they contribute. We can’t start the movie or have ice cream until we’ve all done our part. (And occasionally, that ice cream may be used as a bribe on those days when it looks like a tornado came through my house). Now there’s other stuff like picking up sticks or “outside the norm” chores that they can get paid for. Those chores aren’t considered “everyday expectations” so I can agree with paying for something out of the ordinary. 

Last but not least… grades. 

Let me be clear, I have a rising 2nd grader and Kindergartner, so grades aren’t even in the official A-F category, but they still get assessed. Emphasizing the importance of good grades early is ultra important. Life is not just extracurriculars, video games and playing with friends. It’s instilling responsibility early on and for them, it comes in the form of school.  I’ve set the expectation (or at least I think I have) that school is important and you are expected to do well. “Well” can be uniquely defined, so each report card prompts a discussion. How are they doing? Why are they doing better in certain subjects than others? How can they improve for the next quarter? It’s about positive progress. Doing better than you did before. No payment for grades, but you are expected to do well. 

Celebrate often. 

Taking the time to celebrate the small and big wins is important. It matters at work to my employees and it matters at home to my kids. Sonic after a great game – of course! Dave and Busters after a stellar report card for the school year – yes, please! Spending time with my kids to celebrate moments of achievement is a win for everyone. We send the message they did something great and we are recognizing them while building a family culture of having fun together. 

At the end of the day, parent how you want to parent. Bribe, dangle the carrots, do whatever you want to do. If you feel good about the decision, that’s all that matters. But consider the alternative- – consider building resilience in our kids they might not learn otherwise. Consider helping them find their inner motivation. Consider building life-long skills instead of short-term wins.

What’s your take on incentivizing our kids?


Tricia is a mom, wife & 16+ year HR professional who has a passion for writing and has been a Tampa Bay Moms contributor since 2016. Tricia and her family have lived in Tampa since 2013. Originally from the Windy City, Tricia & her husband enjoy the beaches, exploring great restaurants & spending time at the ball fields with their two kids, Luca & Gia. Tricia has a Master of Arts in Communication from Western Illinois University and is SHRM-SCP certified. When not working or spending time with her family, she enjoys fitness, is a coffee enthusiast, enjoys craft beer & country music. Follow her on IG @tsportsman.