June 15, 2015


You are exhausted, but still have to go to the market to shop for dinner.  The great/grandchildren are with you today and they will accompany you on your necessary trip to the local supermarket.  You dread the crowded market with all of its “goodies” and entrancing toys, but is there a way to get around the “bribes” and “rewards” that might be necessary to get home with everyone in a contented mood?  It can be very awkward and trying!

We hear and read about bribes and rewards for those we do not admire because they are taking actions not based on what is right, but what will bring them the most money/traction/power.  We, in turn don’t want our great/grandchildren to become adults who live by bribes or rewards that control their actions.

So, how do we help children do what is comfortable/correct/thoughtful in the face of trying circumstances?  How do we help promote “good age appropriate behavior” without bribes and rewards? THAT IS THE QUESTION!

Not to be too preachy, but like many things in life, it is necessary to lay out what your expectations are, before, in this example, you leave for the market. By sharing with the child(ren) the purpose of the trip to the market, the need for he/she to cooperate and what the responsibilities are when you get home, you will have laid out realistic expectations.  Talk about ways Janie might read the shopping list once at the market, and Alex can help find veggies that he would like for dinner. Let it be known that if things get too out of hand, you are prepared to leave the market, without making a purchase. This will be a positive lesson for the next time.

When check-out time comes, you might point out to the clerk how proud you are of the child(ren) and thank them for their forbearance. A little praise can go along way, even telling their parents how well they have been cooperating.

Sometimes great/grandparents have more success with this approach, and we can “thank our lucky stars”.

We know from personal experience that outlining expectations doesn’t always work.  But the thought of doing something because it’s the right thing to do, is worth a little thinking and planning ahead.

We talked to our great/grandchildren about this topic.  Interestingly enough, all of the children (ages 7, 8 and 9) felt that talking ahead about our expectations was a good idea.  They ALL agreed in theory that “bribing” is not good. The reward of doing the “right thing” was a good incentive. 

We hope that the feeling of helping, being sympathetic and doing something that will make a child proud will make our interactions with the great/grandchildren meaningful in the long run.