Carefully selected bribes should be the friend of every mama. I first used them when potty training ( my youngest who didn’t want to use the potty ever, learned quickly when her daddy promised a princess dress) and have never looked back. Sure, I wish they would just do what I say because I am their mom or because they want to work hard, but even adults bribe themselves. You know, allowing yourself a special vacation or a new outfit if you lose 50 lbs. The business world likes to use the softer word incentives to increase employee productivity or to award top performers. It is still a bribe. The theoretical side of bribes that I love is this: if the bribe is motivating and lasts long enough, it can create habits that continue long past the duration of the bribe.
There are bad bribes. I cringe when a dad on the soccer sideline yells, “I’ll buy you an iphone if you score 2 goals.” Soccer is a team sport and the public awareness creates crazy pressure. But every parent is different and every kid has a different personality so maybe….? Nope. I just can think of how this scenario might be okay. And there are some kids who aren’t motivated even by the most lucrative bribe. But, most kids respond and thinking of a suitable bribe might teach some valuable skills and save you a bunch of nagging.
As a mom, I tend to use candy or sweet bribes. I know all the horrid psychological implications of this. I still do it sometimes. My oldest has super tight hamstrings. She needs to stretch after every soccer game to prevent injuries. She felt embarrassed stretching though because other 10-year-olds don’t stretch unless the coach makes them. But my Bird, she loves peppermint kisses–more than she wants to avoid embarrassment. I adore injury-prevention techniques. If she stretches for 5 minutes after a game or practice, she gets 4 kisses. Every time. For now. Until a habit is built.
My girls share a room, a little room, a 10 x 11 room with bunk beds. And as they grow, the room is shrinking. Really. And Bird, she panics and feels stressed if the room is messy. And Bug, she doesn’t see a mess. Her eyes are preprogrammed to see only her favorite things in that comforting room, never messes. Fights were starting to recur and Bird was cleaning up Bug’s messes while yelling at her. And Bug was accepting the yelling and counting on her sister to pick up after her. And things were escalating daily. Invention was needed.
So I issued a bribe. Both girls had never eaten a banana split (because they are expensive and well, not that great) and had been begging one for all summer. So my bribe was a banana split. For a month, their room had to be picked up by bedtime. Things had to go in their proper homes (no stuffing dirty clothes in the stuffed animal bin). And each sister had to pick up her own stuff. No days could be skipped and it would be possible for one girl to win and not the other.
The girls thought the bribe was a fantastic game. They counted the days until the banana split. Bird needed one reminder about not picking after her sister. Peace returned to their room and it became the neatest space in the house. Banana split day was fun though only one girl actually wants to eat another one.
The perk? It’s been three months ,friends. Three months. And they still clean their room every night. A habit was formed. I know bribing won’t always work, but don’t discount it. How have your bribed your kids?