You might watch Maury or Dr. Phil and you see stories about out of control children and they're parents who can't seem to do anything with them. Some parents may barely disclipline their children or indeed most may exhibit very inappropriate behavior around them. There could be other issues involved such as bribery and depending on what the reward is for this leads to questions as to whether or not parents are going soft on the kids.
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''It's definitely more our generation,'' Kirsten Whipple, a 35-year-old mom in Northbrook, says with a laugh. ''I'm sure our parents would be appalled if they knew how much we bribe our children.''Sometimes parents it pays to say know. Let them keep talking, they'll shut up eventually. That or they'll know when to stop when you shoot them the look. To be sure I don't have a handle on it yet. I don't think anyone does.
She and her husband try not to overuse rewards and have found they work best for smaller things. They might offer their boys, 5 and 8, a special dessert or a chance to rent a video game if they listen to their baby-sitter.
Whipple has noticed a downside -- a ''sense of entitlement.''
''Often times, it leads to good behavior with a question attached: 'What are you going to give me?''' she says.
That's part of what worries parenting experts.
''I think that reward systems have a time and a place and work really well to help develop capacities -- if we need them to go above and beyond,'' says Marcy Safyer, director of the Adelphi University Institute for Parenting.
''But what often gets lost for people is being able to figure out how to communicate to their kids that doing the thing is rewarding enough,'' Safyer says.
Feeling rested in the morning, for instance, could be seen as the reward for not getting up at night.
Elizabeth Powell, a mother of two young daughters in Austin, Texas, says that what constitutes a reward has changed.
"Sometimes, you wonder now if kids appreciate even a new pair of shoes,'' she said.
These days, she sees children negotiating to get things in a way she never would've dreamed of. ''A lot of my friends, I see them cave, just like I have a tendency to do -- just to get them to be quiet,'' Powell says.