Bribery. What’s Your Weapon of Choice?

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.


41 thoughts on “Bribery. What’s Your Weapon of Choice?

  1. My daughter is at an age where she is beginning to push the boundaries and tell me no when I tell her it’s time out time or chat and chat to avoid a time out. We normally take away bedtime story time or use the fairies won’t like it ( fairies are going to help organise a princess party). Being a parent is hard. #kcacols

    1. Funny how different things work for different ages. Fairies for you today, I wonder what it will be in 5 or 10 years time?!

  2. If we are having a bad trip to the shops I totally bribe them with chocolate buttons or raisins! We also have to have calm down time, as time out is not really effective with my 5 year old. She goes and does a calm activity in her room. It sometimes helps. Thank you for linking with #KCACOLS and we hope you come back next time!

  3. Oh I am all for bribery – for shopping trips I arm myself with sweets galore! I am quite lucky as my girls are really good the majority of the time. #kcacols

  4. Bribery is vital. I have become that mother than when we go anywhere says “you can take your DS if you are good!!”

    Food with the little one. Technology with the big one! The keys to sanity! #coolmumclub

    1. Hah! That’s interesting and good to know that technology is key for your older one. My youngest is all about sweets and my older one I can bribe with sweets or TV!

  5. Having swore I would never use bribery I now use it like it’s going out of fashion and chocolate is always the weapon of choice…god help us all! Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub lovely xoxo

  6. Funnily enough I offered the girls a pound each to help me pick up weeds at the allotment at the weekend! First time but it worked a treat (although Tigs did then try and charge me a pound later to come in her bedroom…errr).
    MMT recently posted…#coolmumclub Linky week 64My Profile

    1. Hah!! They cotton on quick. You were robbed though, I got my eldest weeding for free this weekend as she was so intent on “helping”! Bribery strangely not needed this time. X

    1. Yes, I mainly use the iPad / phone if we have to go out and wait around somewhere that they don’t want to be!

    1. Yes I agree! I think we all respond well to bribery. I can usually be bribed with wine and chocolate!! X

  7. my kids, (3,2 &1) get asked if they would like to go to bed.
    I lose count of how many times this can be said on any given day.
    They usually respond “No” and then pack it in. Occasionally I have to put them in their rooms, they cry for the entire 30 seconds they are there until I retrieve them.
    Seriously, they should come with a manual!

  8. Bribery is something we all need to use time to time lol. My daughter is 11, so it is usually a magazine (which are expensive now!) or new clothes. The girl is costing me a fortune, but she is being good lol.

    1. Hah! This is good to know. I did suspect that more money would come into bribery as they got older!!

  9. we’re not quite at the bribing stage yet as when we say No to Ben he shakes his head as he thinks its a funny thing we do like asking him to repeat motions like pointing to his belly etc.
    my mum used to do a “stay up later if you do X, Y & Z” i think id agree with that route when he gets older! #coolmumclub

    1. Yes, all kids love the idea of staying up later don’t they? Now it’s a treat if I get to bed early!!

  10. He’s not quite old enough for bribery yet but when he’s grumpy I give Snappy a bread crust. Takes him a while to work through it. #kcacols

  11. I think I spend on average 80% of my day brining my toddler! It’s a tricky one to get around, sometimes I don’t like doing it and would rather her be good because she wants to but then I’d rather not spend all day screaming, shouting and arguing with a toddler haha! Yay for bribery!! #KCACOLS

  12. Haha, where would we be without bribery?! I use chocolate buttons and biscuits to get my 3 year old to do things..sometimes it really is the only way xx #kcacols

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