I recently wrote about my Unexpected Mummy Skills and a comment by Lucy at This Mums Life asking about my bribery skills has inspired this post. It has occurred to me that I am a master in bribery. I am not bothered that I do it, I don’t feel guilty because quite frankly it gets the job done. I have found throughout this parenting rollercoaster that a single approach to the ‘negotiation’ will not work. There are many variables that need to be taken into account such as why is the bribe needed? What are you trying to achieve from this? Can I reasonably uphold this bribe at a future date? You wouldn’t want to promise a trip to the zoo simply in exchange for a toddler putting their shoes on…. Trust me they will rememberer from now until eternity that putting their shoes on should get them to the zoo, not a mouldy old cookie.
Now I suspect (but could be wrong) that there are two types of people reading this now… Those that eagerly await my thoughts and tips on bribery. Welcome! I take it you are parents to toddlers, possibly at the age of 2 – 4 years old. What I like to call the ‘Prime Manipulatable Years’ or ‘PMY’s’. I feel your desperation for five minutes peace. Or, perhaps you have already been here and done it. Please tell me the need for such frequent bribes ends soon.
There will, of course, be those feeling a little curious about the title but think offering a biscuit is a good enough bribe, or that you shouldn’t bribe your child at all! (Do these people really exist outside of baby books?) You should bring them up to respect your authority as a parent. Welcome also, feel free to continue reading even if you disagree with me. Once your child hits the PMY’s feel free to refer back here, you may finally understand what I am talking about. Perhaps you might like to ‘bookmark’ this post for future reference? I too used to think bribing your children was for the weaker parent. I was wrong! Oh, so very wrong. Now if there was a Masters degree in this subject I would pass it with first class honours.
So on to the types of bribes:
The ‘Go and sit down’ bribe: Usually a simple snack, ideally healthy (I keep the unhealthy ones for more important bribes). This won’t buy you much time but it will allow you to make that cup of coffee you so desperately want without the child hanging off your waist and risking third degree burns. If you chose a large apple you may have enough time to drink some of said coffee before they finish their snack and resume their previous position around your leg. How do they hold on tighter than a Greenpeace Environmentalist attached to a tree?
The ‘please put your shoes on NOW’ bribe: This has two subsections!
- We are just going for a walk to get out of the house before Mummy goes certifiably crazy: Use a biscuit. If it has chocolate in it you will get out the house, on average, three times faster.
- We are going out to meet friends/family: Have the treat ready (out of sight) but ensure they know they can only have it when you arrive at your destination in a timely manor. If I’m feel particularly mean I will also promise something I was already going to provide whilst out and about, that way they think they have earned it and you get them out of the effing house!
The ‘I need five minutes peace’ bribe: This will vary from child to child. Pick their favourite activity or toy (other than the comforter) and hide it! Yep, hide it! Then when you need some peace and quite bring it out. For Pinky and Perky it is painting. We have some cool glitter paints which are hidden in a cupboard and I went out and bought a large roll of white wallpaper liner from Homebase. You can get loads of the stuff for about £5 or £6. It’s much thicker than standard paper so it doesn’t t break as easily with sharp pencils or too much paint. Granted this takes a bit if time to prepare but once they are set up and ready to paint I can get a good ten minutes of peace. It might not be quiet as such but they aren’t saying ‘Mummy, Mummy, Mummy’ every twenty seconds.
The ‘Reeeeally late bedtime’ bribe*: I usually use this on a Sunday, and sometimes every other day of the week depending on how fed up I am. Pinky likes to ‘stay up late’. She won’t go to be unless Perky is already in bed. Easily solved… Off to bed Perky. However, sometimes this isn’t enough so in the interest of keeping the balance I will occasionally let her think she is staying up even later than normal. This involves doing dinner a little earlier, doing the bath a little earlier, closing all the curtains and making everything cozy. Then when ready for bed we get into my bed and either watch a cartoon or read a book. This may kill about 10 minutes then its bedtime. Pinky thinks she has stayed up really late, in actual fact she is in bed half and hour earlier than normal. Now that was easy I hear you say… well there is a little more to it. Sometimes she is so tired that it is ok she is in bed early, mostly though it just means she spends the next two hours going in and out of her room…. So heres the real bribe (no the cartoon was only half of it). I tell her if she is ‘good’ and goes straight to sleep and doesn’t get up then we will go to the park or soft play in the morning after breakfast. Really the reward is up to you but for that extra half an hour of child free evening time I guarantee it’s worth it.
The ‘Eat your dinner’ bribe: I know what you’re thinking, that one is easy, it’s pudding. Well, not in our house it isn’t. I once heard a Health Visitor explain to a worried mum that although it could be tempting to use the yogurt as a way to get a child to eat their dinner it can be detrimental in the long run. She explained that using it as a treat always makes it something they will crave. Instead, always offer the yogurt. That way it becomes as normal as the dinner itself. Plus children don’t have the same food hang ups as an adult does so they really won’t deliberately starve themselves. After a couple of missed meals they will soon eat! This little nugget of advice really stuck with me, I wasn’t even a parent when I heard it. So this eat all your dinner bride has taken a little imagination on my part. This is a deprivation bribe really. ‘If you don’t eat your dinner you won’t get…’ Pick your own thing your child would respond to. Pinky responds to no Paw Patrol, or other cartoon of choice the next day. And believe me she knows I will stick to it.
Some days I simply ask the girls to do things for me rather than trying to bribe them. ‘Please stop annoying your sister.’ ‘Please share your toys, she had that first anyway!’ These days I am clearly delusional with sleep deprivation!
Bribing works, accept it, embrace it and move on.
Is there anyone out there who doesn’t use bribery with their children? If so please, please, please share your secrets with us all.
*This will only work until they are able to tell the time. Use it whilst you can my friend!