An Argument Against Bribing Your Children

It’s not like I do it often. Frankly, the only reason I have ever done it is because, well, it works. As a parent, you know when your kids have that look in their eyes that says, “I am having a bad day and you are going to pay for that multiple times over!” For the most part, my policy is to just deal with it as it happens, but, every now and then you have a special occasion that commands precision behaviour. In these instances, I have been known to pull out the bribery card.

Recently, I can think of two such occasions. The first being Great, Great Nanny’s 100th birthday party. My logic for bribing them with a trip to the Dollar Store the next day was that you will rarely get a chance to attend a 100th birthday party and Nanny deserved the best behaved children in the land. Plus, at $1.15 each, it was a win-win! They were angels and did exactly as they were told the whole time. More on that later.

The next was my son’s first appearance on television. We were going to have a PlasmaCar race, which he as excited for, but first we had to talk to the morning show hosts and I was worried he would flee. I brought the Beyblade in the car with us that morning and he did a great job on TV and proudly held his new toy all the way home.

You’re probably thinking that everything worked out perfectly, so what’s the problem? Here’s a little story about how this strategy backfired on me. I came home from work the other day and was met by my 3 year old daughter, who was running towards me, arms extended, as she does every day. The conversation, however, was slightly different..

Daughter: “Daddy, I need you to buy me a new Rapunzel Barbie set”
Me: “Why? Did you break another Barbie?”
Daughter: *In her saddest face, nods head yes*
My Wife: “No she didn’t. Ask your son about it”
Me: “Son, why does your sister need a new Rapunzel Barbie?”
Son: *Smiles slyly*
My Wife: “I let her play on my iPhone while I was doing laundry, but when I came back, he had the phone. When I asked her why he had it, she answered that he promised to buy her a new Rapunzel Barbie set if she gave it up…”
Me: “Oh boy”

While my first reaction was to half be proud at his negotiation skills and hide a laugh, I quickly connected the dots and realized that I had created this monster with my recent bribery. I thought I was being clever by offering cheap toys in exchange for good behaviour, but missed the bigger picture issue.

The moral of this story is that KIDS NOTICE EVERYTHING! I will definitely think twice before I go to the bribery method again and I hope this story has helped newer parents in some way.

8 replies
  1. buddingwisdom
    buddingwisdom says:

    Great story but no harm done that a little clarification and redirection can’t fix.
    I have four kids and am not ashamed to admit that bribery is a very common parenting tool in our toolbox. A child psychologist recently told me they refer to it as a “reward system”. Whatever, dude it works like a charm.

    Reply
  2. Oren
    Oren says:

    If I may make a side point here, a $1.15 in the Dollar store? Looks like someone made a tax-free, clean $0.15 off you!!!

    Also, don’t feel too bad, it’s a 100th freakin birthday!

    Reply
  3. Babe_Chilla
    Babe_Chilla says:

    Lol this is pretty funny. We do the “rewards chart” thing to help with her sticky behaviours and to limit how much pure “mommy bought you a new toy cause” we go through. That’s more my problem than hers.

    It works for the MOST part but the other thing she does is that now. she will do things that are expected of her, say clear her dinner plates, then ask me for a new toy. Or she’ll act out, then when I call her on it, she’ll say “well if I”m a good girl, will I get an X?”.

    I completely enjoy the reward chart for the most part, but it’s those little things we have to keep working on. I don’t want her thinking she just gets prizes for acting like a decent human being 🙂

    Reply

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