Whichever it is, many parents today readily admit to buying off their children, who get goodies for anything from behaving in a restaurant to sleeping all night in their own beds. Often, the rewards are for behaviors their own parents would have simply expected, just because they said so.
The new dynamic - sometimes seen as a backlash to that strictness - has some parenting experts wondering if today's parents have gone too soft. "It's definitely more our generation," Kirsten Whipple, a 35-year-old mom in Northbrook, Illinois, says with a quiet laugh. "I'm sure our parents would be appalled if they knew how much we bribe our children." She can see why they might be - but she and her husband try not to overuse rewards and have found they work best for smaller things. For instance, they might offer their boys, ages 5 and 8, a special dessert or a chance to rent a video game if they listen to their baby sitter. A good report card might earn a dinner out to celebrate. Whipple has noticed a downside though - what she calls 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 is part of what worries parenting experts.
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