We’re all guilty of it. Bribery seems to be just part of everyday life when you have kids – especially those hard-to-get-to-do-anything-on-the-first-ask toddlers.
“If you want to watch five more minutes of TV, you must brush your teeth first.” “Get your jacket on and Mommy will put your favorite DVD on in the car.” I don’t know about you, but I like to consider a new label for these transgressions — let’s call them “creative motivations,” shall we?Robin Goldstein, Ph.D., author of The Parenting Bible, would agree with that term — during your child’s early years, that is. “It can take years for a young child to understand that certain things have to be done even if they don’t want to do them,” she explains. “Until he can motivate himself to do necessary tasks, bribery has its uses, and parents will find an occasional bribe is a strong motivator.”Of course, if you get stuck in bribery — er, motivation — mode, you need to find your way out of that. Says Goldstein, “Give your child plenty of warning when you want him to switch activities or go along with you cooperatively.” If he’s engrossed in the latest Dora and Diego movie for the 17th time, for instance, and you need to get to the bank before it closes, bring it to his attention when there’s time to spare. Tell him, “We need to go on an errand this afternoon,” says Goldstein. Then, remind him 10 minutes before you need to leave.
Beware of bribery backlash
Trick or treat? Bribing children with sweet treats as a reward for eating vegetables and fruits may work at the dinner table, but in the long run, it can actually cause them to dislike healthier foods, says Julie Lumeng, M.D., a developmental and behavioral pediatrician with the University of Michigan Health System.“Open up and say bribe!” Bribing your child to go to the dentist is not a good idea, says Martin Davis, D.S.S., professor, Columbia University School of Dental and Oral Surgery and director of pediatric dentistry at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. (Especially if it’s with candy.)Bribes behaving badly. According to officials at the Lehigh Valley Hospital and Health Network, bribing your child to stop a tantrum should warrant you a time out. “The child then learns to act inappropriately to get a reward.” Not good.And, if all else fails, you can always introduce bribery’s cousin… “Distraction.”