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.
The 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?