Bribing children, somewhat unsuccessfully :: 31 days of messy parenting {day 16}

17 October 2012

I bribe my children.

There, I said it.

Yes, I know it's not really wise or sustainable long term. I know there are better ways to handle potty accidents at school or staying in one's bed or a chores system... actually, I don't think I do. What are those better ways? And I know this may or may not be reinforcing some bad habits that will perhaps come back to them later in life. I know this because I currently practice it (lose 10 lbs? hooray! now eat some cheesecake!).


So when our sweet strong-willed girl was having some washroom issues at school, I paid her - yes, paid her - to stay dry. A dollar a day. In her defense, it didn't take the first few days (what can I say? the  girl has a one-track mind and that track is "dress up in all the things no matter how complicated disrobing might be"). But after a week, she came home dry... not one, not two, but as of today -- six days in a row! Will I give her all $6? Probably not. She's not so great at math yet, and besides, she loves nickels. But she is dry, no longer embarrassed at school, and I can cancel our appointment with the child psychologist.

The exception that proves the rule: She used to stay in her bed all night if I promised she could wear whatever she wanted the next day. I will tell you this: when your child picks out the same homemade red cowboy shirt three days straight, you will fold like any good self-respecting mother would. (full disclosure: the shirt was Matt's at age 5.)

The eldest is a different matter. He is almost entirely self-sufficient, getting himself breakfast in the morning, starting our coffee (it's just a button to push; no children were harmed in the writing of this blog post), no longer writing on walls or eating books. And he really couldn't care less about rewards, and I have tried!

Jack is perfectly content to never see the floor of his room. Allowance is nearly meaningless. He acts all excited that I'll let him play a computer game (or three) as soon as he accomplishes the job, but within an hour or two of the initial bribe, he's forgotten all about it. I find him, 40 minutes after lights out, still on the floor surrounded by clothes and legos, reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for the eighth time.

shot_1348072310477.jpgThe wee lad, he doesn't understand blackmail yet, doesn't quite get the "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" mothering mentality I'm trying to master. But in a pinch, when he won't stay in his own bed and I find him at 11pm sitting on his sleeping sister's head, I pull out my ace: Wiggles video first thing in the morning, trip to Nana's, chocolate milk. In no time at all, he's a gentle sleeping baby bird in his nest. I try not to use this often, as the costs of this bribe increase exponentially in relation to gas prices and my dwindling sanity.

In retrospect, it appears I only try to bribe my children. It's all about finding that thing your kids will do almost anything for: money, Wiggles videos, and... gum. I think Jack might clean the bathrooms for some gum. I should get on that.

Ok, let me have it. What am I doing wrong? How does one get one's child to clean his or her bedroom without yelling or a bottomless piggy bank?

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