My youngest daughter, Eva will be 4 this summer. She can be sweet, affectionate and charming. But when she’s tired or determined to do something on her own, she can turn into a monster and things can get hellish. If she’s in one of her moods, time outs don’t do anything. Just last night, I tried shutting her in her room so that we could both calm down after bath time went wrong. She howled in protest and when I refused to open the door then she called out, “I’ve done a wee on the carpet.” She’s done this before – using this tactic to provoke a reaction in me to open up the door which of course I did.
So what’s a mum to do? When threats don’t work and time outs are ignored? How can we discipline and encourage good behaviour?
Why, bribery of course!
It seems to me that whatever age our kids, bribery is one of the biggest tools we can use in our arsenal of trying to raise decent human beings. As our children get older, I can see how different methods change, but at any age from toddlers, bribery seems to be something that can work. Here’s a list of what I’ve used, or seen be used with others so far. Feel free to add your weapon of bribery in the comments at the end!
1. Food. Let’s face it. Who hasn’t said to their child, “If you stop crying / whining / trying to get out of your buggy / rolling around on the floor of the supermarket I will give you some chocolate buttons? As we might expect, this form of bribe works best when offering the sweetest or saltiest snack possible. Fruit or healthy options won’t cut the bad behaviour mustard. Sweets, chocolate and crisps will. I still use this on my 3 and 5 year old. We have the remnants of some Easter eggs hanging around (I know! It’s nearly May and believe me, I’ve been doing my part in trying to help finish them off) and I’ve used it to bribe behaviour. Specifically, “If you eat up all of your lunch / dinner, you can have a piece of your Easter egg.”
2. An Activity They Enjoy. I have a problem with my two girls getting ready in the morning for school / pre-school. They slink about in their pyjamas, pondering what socks to wear, deciding that they must count their hairbands or choose that very moment to look through their jewellery. It is enough to send me crazy with impatience and I end up shouting the house down to try and get them out the door. But I may have just this week, discovered a new bribery tool. They both love colouring and arts and crafts (even though I’m crap at it). And for some reason, they both want to do this every morning. So I now insist that they are dressed, had breakfast, cleaned teeth and had their hair brushed before they even sit down to colour. If they mess and dither about. There’s no time for colouring. The quicker they get ready the more time for them to do what they like. Everyone’s a winner. Until of course, the moment I have to drag them away to put their shoes and coats on………
3. Television / IPad. I always thought I’d be one of those mums that didn’t let my kids watch too much TV. But then I realised that the TV or IPad not only allows you to get some sh!t done but also is a great way to ensure your kids get some sh!t done too. Hence this form of bribery works well when you want your kids to clear up or do some chores. “Yes of course you can watch your favourite TV programme (currently Care Bears or Puss in Boots in this house) as soon as you have tidied up your toys / cleared away your colouring / put your shoes away / put your arts and crafts in the bin – sorry I mean on the table.”
4. Trips / Events Out. If you’ve got a day out or if your child has a friend’s party coming up, then this form of bribery is a biggie which can work wonders. I have lost count of the times that I have dangled an event in front of my kids’ eyes like some form of warped carrot. For example just this week I’ve said to Alice age 5, “You need to stop being cheeky and answering me back if you want to go to Oscar’s party on Saturday.” I’ve found this form of bribery works well with getting some good behaviour. BUT beware, it can and does backfire. I remember telling the girls when they were younger that they wouldn’t go to playgroup if they didn’t put their shoes on. They didn’t seem to care and they paid no attention. After several attempts I had no choice but to follow through on the threat. I was livid because for the sake of my sanity, I had craved some adult company with the other mums at the group.
5. Money. Nothing like a bit of cold, hard cash to get your kids to do something or behave in the way you want them to. We haven’t gone down this route and I suspect this is something that parents with older kids have to resort to. After all, there’s only so long that chocolate buttons will work. Apparently one study in America recently found that those parent with kids in school, almost half – 48% pay their kids for good grades. There’s something that feels a bit more calculated about using money to reward behaviour. I’m sure the odd time or occasion would be OK but on a regular basis, this to me feels a bit odd.
6. Toys. About 6 months ago, the youngest was going through a terrible phase with bad behaviour. Someone suggested a reward chart whereby every good bit of behaviour is rewarded with a sticker and at the end of the week or whenever they have enough stickers, they get a reward. It helped to have a goal in mind of what they were working towards. My youngest luckily had her heart set on a very cheap, squidgy pocket toy owl from Smyths toy shop. For the rest of that week her behaviour was near-perfect in her pursuit of this tat. Again this form of bribe instantly helped me out. It made my life more bearable, but I could see how it quickly could run away with you if you were to offer it on a regular basis. Where would ever end? This week a cheap toy. But several weeks later you could end up bankrupt by agreeing to get a new trampoline.
There you have my key weapons of bribery to try and reward or promote good behaviour. Do you use any of these? Any others that you would recommend or are you not a fan of bribery? I’d love to know what you think.