Surviving Parenthood One Bribe at a Time

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about parenting so far, it’s that bribery is the most effective form of getting good behavior from a child. At least it is for me and my kids!

One-Bribe-At-A-Time.pngimage: associated press

I mean, I’m not bribing my toddler ALL the time. It’s usually just when she’s completely engulfed in an activity that she literally cannot hear me. Or she’s completely ignoring me, w-h-a-t-e-v-e-r.

My husband Jeff struggles with this concept of bribery as his attempts to rule with an iron fist simply do not work. Our three year old daughter Annabelle will either act like daddy’s not being serious, or his loud and direct communication style is met with dramatic tears and stubborn heels dug firmly into the sand.

Sometimes Jeff is in awe of my ability to get Annabelle to do what I want her to do in a gentler, more loving way than his iron fist can. You see, I employ tactics that work. I speak her language. My directives sound more appealing because I add lots of “buzz words” that attract a three year old girly girl’s attention; words she hears through all the other noise and distractions in her little world.


Here are some examples of how I doctor up some of these simple requests for action:

Request: Get dressed for church

Annabelle, do you want to wear your pretty blue dress, white tights and velvet shoes that Uncle Shaun got you? After church we’ll go to lunch and get a grilled cheese sandwich!

{Buzz words: pretty, dress, Uncle Shaun, lunch, grilled cheese}

Request: Stop playing and go potty before we leave for the gym

Annabelle, you need to go potty so we can go to the gym and you can play with your friends at child watch. You can take one toy with you in the car!

{Buzz words: friends, play, toy in the car}
It may be a longer winded way of telling her to get her butt in gear, but sometimes you just catch more flies with honey, ya know? 
Let’s make a deal

And when the sugar coating tactic doesn’t work, I turn to bribery and making deals.

The way I see it is, she has something I want and I have something she wants. Let’s make a deal, sweetheart. You go pee before we leave the house, and we’ll go on that Disney Cruise we’ve been planning all year. If you don’t, mommy is going to call and cancel it! Or if you don’t take a nap this afternoon, I’m going to tell Mimi and Grampy who are on their way for a visit to turn around and go home. 

It actually sounds a little mean when I type it out, but whatever, it’s not mean, it’s real. We do what works as parents, right? It’s called give and take. According to my mother-in-law, I’m teaching her a valuable lesson in compromise! This will serve her well in the future!

When all else fails, always use Santa

I’m sure every parent can relate to the Santa bribe. I mean, Santa has been the boss in our household for the last two months. If I ask her three times to stop playing and put her shoes and coat on so we can leave and she doesn’t get up, I simply ask her if she still wants that Barbie from Santa. “SANTA’S WATCHING”,  I’d say. 
Who needs that whole “Elf on a Shelf” thing? Santa trumps the elf. 
In fact, my husband told Annabelle that Santa lived in a tiny house ornament hanging on the Christmas tree and he was always watching. How creepy… but it works! 

I’ve been feeling anxious about what my next major bribery tool is going to be now that Christmas and our Disney Cruise are behind us, and then I heard Jeff tell Annabelle the other day that Santa is still watching for next year. Omg, Genius! Santa year-round, now that’s what I’m talkin ‘bout!

How about giving kids a choice?

Lately what I’ve been doing is presenting Annabelle with two choices. The one I want, which always has a “doctored up” desirable outcome for her. Or the second option, which is something like going to bed. Three year olds NEVER want to go to bed, so this usually works. 

This isn’t just a successful tactic with my three year old. I also employed deal making on my 7-year old nephew during our cruise when he was throwing a tantrum on the beach. I said; “Alex, do you want to go eat a yummy lunch {buzz words!}, have ice cream {buzz words!} and then ride bicycles {buzz words!} all around the island, or would you rather go back to the ship and sit in your room with your grandma?” I prayed he wouldn’t be a wild card and say he wanted to sit in his room and watch TV. Thankfully he quit crying and chose the desirable outcome for all involved. Problem solved! 



Wouldn’t it be awesome if kids just perked up and listened when we spoke without having to repeat ourselves a million times? But the reality for most kids is that they don’t, at least not when they’re little and easily distracted. So I say you just do what works. And if that means canceling a trip to Disneyland like 15 times in a month just to get your kid to take naps, I say do whatcha gotta do sistah! Eventually these little tots will wise up to our game, so enjoy the low stakes deal making while you can!


These days I’m a stay at home mom waffling with the decision to keep being a SAHM or go back to work. I’m straddling the fence so much it’s beginning to chafe. Ow! I mean, really, I just want to go back to work and make a brag-worthy paycheck, wear super cute clothes, say smart things, and go to Mexican for lunch with my co-workers. The problem with this is that I don’t want to actually go to work or wake up before 7:00am. Annnd I’ll be sad to leave my little guy in daycare about the time when he starts walking and talking a little. That’s when he will become more fun! So for now I’m just a SAHM enjoying time with my 3 year old daughter Annabelle, and my little man Leo who is the cutest, smiliest baby boy in all the land. FACEBOOK | TWITTER | BLOG

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