Before I was a parent, I was full of wonderful advice for parents. I had taught children for years and was confident in the advice I gave. It came from experience, it came from research, and it came from the heart. I loved my students.
Then I became a parent and doling out advice with 100 percent confidence ceased. These days I don’t give advice nearly as much as I simply commiserate. One thing that I have changed my view on is bribery.
I used to turn my nose up on bribery believing that children need to be intrinsically motivated for things like potty training, sleeping through the night, and yes, reading for fun. Now, I think parents need to use whatever fits best with their child if their child is reluctant. This isn’t scientifically based advice; it’s parent to parent advice. This is what I would say over a cup of coffee to a girlfriend who is worried that her eight-year old has zero desire to read. In fact, this is the exactly what I told my friend: Use whatever currency you have, because learning to read is non-negotiable.
Reading isn’t a subject in school — it’s a tool for life, and essential for learning. The stakes are too high to not use bribery on principle. I personally wouldn’t start out with it, but my kids aren’t your kids and I trust you know what’s best for your children. Reading may be a blast for you and I, but for some kids it’s anything but fun. A dollar a book, getting to watch screens for a certain number of pages, or getting out of dreaded chores if you are reading instead make perfect sense to me.
When it comes to reading our job as parents is to provide materials, help motivate, and look out for trouble. Hopefully by providing great materials that your child wants to read (even if it’s not exactly what we want them reading comics or books with lots of potty humor), making reading a part of your family routine, and by offering help when needed you can avoid ever having to bribe your child but you won’t be judged by me if bribery makes it into your home. Some things are too important not to use whatever you have to, and reading is one of those things.