DEAR ABBY: I was surprised to see you equate a concerned grandmother's creative solution to smoking with bribery in your Feb. 14 column. The word "bribe" has a negative connotation. What the grandmother did was offer an incentive, not a bribe, that will benefit her grandchildren in the long run. I think the woman should be congratulated.
Now for a disclaimer: When my daughter was 14, I came up with the same idea in the form of a wager. I bet her that if she could resist peer pressure and not become a smoker by the time she was 21, I would buy her the dress of her dreams. To my delight, she won the bet. By then she was studying to become a marine biologist, so instead of a dress, the money went toward a wetsuit.
At 43, she's still a nonsmoker and she has now made that same bet with her children. It's the best money I ever spent. -- RETIRED CLINICAL SOCIAL WORKER
DEAR R.C.S.W.: Oh me, oh my, did I get clobbered for my response to that letter. Out of the hundreds of letters and emails received, only one person agreed with me. The rest were smokin' mad. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: In my many years as a school psychologist, I have counseled hundreds of parents and teachers about dealing with behavioral issues in children. I often make the distinction between a "bribe" and a "reward" by describing a bribe as something you give someone to do something dishonest, while a reward is given for doing something commendable. What she did was reward their good choice in not developing a potentially fatal habit. -- OLD-SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST
DEAR ABBY: When you give someone money for something that has already been completed, it's a paycheck and not a bribe. It was pointed out to me that few of us would continue to go to work if we weren't paid for it, and those grandchildren were being paid for "work" that was already completed. It's an important distinction that may be helpful for parents and other adults to understand. -- FORMER SCHOOL PRINCIPAL
DEAR ABBY: I disagree with your answer! What that grandmother did was reward her grandchildren, not bribe them. A lot of pressure is put on teens, and it takes considerable willpower and maturity to avoid some of these temptations.
At 16 or 17, it is hard for them to imagine being over 30, and none of them can imagine being 60 or 70 with lung disease. Hooray for grandparents who can help them avoid adopting a life-threatening habit in any way they can! -- GRANDMOTHER IN IOWA
DEAR ABBY: I told my son I would give him $1,000 at the age of 21 if he didn't smoke. It wasn't bribery. It was a great tool to combat peer pressure. Whenever he was offered a cigarette, he could simply say he had a better offer. Not only did it work, the other kids were envious. -- MICHIGAN MOM
DEAR ABBY: My pre-teen daughter was devastated when her maternal grandfather died from the effects of emphysema. In spite of it, she took up smoking in her teens. We threatened her, grounded her, took away privileges, even tried guilt trips. Nothing worked. Her choice to smoke was influenced by her peer group.
I would have mortgaged our home, sold our possessions and borrowed money from the bank if I thought I could have altered her choice by bribing her. By the way, she has been diagnosed with pre-cancerous cells, but even this hasn't been enough to cause her to quit. -- WOULD HAVE DONE ANYTHING
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
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