The majority of parents I have talked to during my 20 years as a parent educator have told me that, at some point in time, they bribed their kids. No kidding! Who hasn’t?
But recently it was brought to my attention that there are lots of bloggers and blog readers out there who have been discussing the effects of bribing on their kids. Since bribing seems to be a universal parenting tool, I thought I’d share my two cents’ worth.
Personally, I think bribing is insulting to not only the kids but to the parents as well. Yes, I know it works from time to time, but that’s the problem. It only works some of the time. I consider myself a lazy parent.
Here’s my list of “musts” when I consider any parenting strategy:
- It has to work 90% of the time.
- It has to be something that other people will use with my kids.
- It can’t make things worse.
- It has to be respectful to everyone.
- It has to teach my kids something so they can build skills to use when they leave my house.
- It has to work so well that soon, I am only using it 5% of the time.
Bribing, I’m afraid, doesn’t do any of that.
Here is what it does do:
- How would you feel if, at the end of dinner, when you were feeling full as a tick (my husband’s description, which says it all), your child said, “Mom/Dad, I’ll make my bed every morning this week if you eat the rest of the broccoli.” Absurd, right? Well, that’s what we sound like when we try to bribe our kids.
- We have already established that bribing works sometimes—they always eat their veggies for an extra helping of dessert—but what about the times it doesn’t work? Then what? More bribing? Bigger bribes? A full-blown temper tantrum? Face it—you got nothin’.
- What about the way it makes your child feel when you take away their decision-making power by trying to bribe them into doing something? What do you think this manipulative “parenting tool” ultimately does to your relationship with that child? And, who else might use bribing as an effective strategy on your child? HMMMMM—now there’s a truly scary thought.
Bribing is a “last ditch” parenting strategy. If it worked, we would use it all the time for everything. We know it doesn’t work to create lasting, sustainable change, so why use it at all?
One dad blogger, who wrote about bribing, captured my sentiments exactly. For those of you who know me, you’ll understand why this blog had me howling.