I was talking with a couple about training their young child when they asked this:
“Sometimes we like to give her a reward for obeying. But a book we read said we shouldn’t do that. It said kids should be expected to obey and should only be rewarded if they do something extra special – beyond what is expected. What do you think?”
Is it ok to reward our children for doing right or does that teach them to only do right when there is a reward (bribe) promised ahead of time?
Obviously there’s no direct Biblical command or instruction.
So whenever I was faced with a parenting question that wasn’t directly addressed in Scripture I would ask these two questions that would give me the answer.
- How does God treat us?
In my experience and based on Scriptural promises God rewards us for obedience even if it’s expected. Here are just three examples that come to mind:
- Malachi 3:10 – bring the tithe (expected) I will pour out a blessing (reward).
- Psalm 19:11 – In keeping the Lord’s decrees (expected) there is great reward.
- 1 Corinthians 3:14 – If what has been built survives (expected), the builder will receive a reward.
The Lord has no problem rewarding us just for doing what’s expected – obeying his commands. So, it’s a good thing to reward our children for doing what’s right, even if it’s what they should do anyway.
- How does it work in life?
One job of parenting is to prepare our kids for life. For many of us it’s expected we will report to work every day, on time and do our job. Imagine if the boss said he wasn’t going to pay you for showing up and doing your job since that’s expected. You will only get paid for going above and beyond what’s expected. My guess is we’d all have a problem with that.
So, in life we get rewarded for doing what’s expected. Again, it seems reasonable to reward our kids for doing right – even if they should do what’s right anyway.
Finally, while it’s ok to reward our kids for doing right we don’t want to begin to bribe them to do right. God does not bribe us and that is not how the real world (supposedly) works. So what’s the difference between a reward and a bribe?
Read more: Is it a reward or a bribe?
God has established authorities “to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.”
1 Peter 2:14