I have three kids (ages 8, 5, 11 months). Sometimes I bribe them. I think I’m supposed to call this positive reinforcement, but it’s bribery. I bribe them when I’m really tired and I want them to go to bed. I bribe them when I can’t get a moment of silence. I bribe them when someone is coming over and the living room is an embarrassing mess and I don’t have time to fight with them to get it clean. I know this sounds like a lot of bribery, but we are really only talking about once a month or so. Plus, with kids this young, bribing them is really economical. Most of my bribes cost $5 or less. The sad thing about bribing my kids is that it really gets results, so I fall back on it more than I should. I know that there is some non-parent reading this right now and thinking, “You are creating bad life skills.” Well honestly, sometimes, when I am about to lose my mind, I don’t feel bad about bribing them because it saved my sanity. I really doubt that I am alone in this.
Here are a few examples of ways to bribe your children for under $5.
Candy ($3-$5): There is something about taking my kids to the store that turns them into needing, wanting, fit throwing, little maniacs. Most of the time they are great. Most of the time they are sweet and wonderful. But taking them to the store is like showing a werewolf the moon. This is why I promise them a treat if they are good at the store. The power of the treat is amazing. When my daughter starts to run down an aisle like a little shit, “You are going to lose your treat.” When my son starts making embarrassing fart sounds while walking down the diaper isle, “If I hear that one more time you are not getting a treat.” It doesn’t work every time. Sometimes the kids will decide that acting like a jackass is better than a treat. But most of the time, the second I mention that their treat is on the line, they cut the crap.
Extra screen time (Free): Video games, tablets, Netflix, really anything with a screen is like heroine for children. They are addicted to this shit, and that’s why we keep it heavily regulated so that it can be used to motivate (bribe) the kids to get things done. The power of screens is remarkable. Particularly with my 8-year-old son. If I tell my son to clean up his room and he will get an extra 30 minutes of screen time, he moves like a flash.
Money ($1-$5): Last year, when my two oldest were 4 and 7, I could offer them one dollar and they would clean the toilet, the bathtub, mop the floor, really anything. I don’t care who you are, that’s a hell of a deal. The price has since gone up to between two and five dollars. But it’s still worth it. If it’s cheaper than a combo meal at Taco Bell to get someone to mop the floor, it’s totally worth it.
McDonald’s Happy Meal ($3.19): I think McDonalds has nicotine in their chicken nuggets. My kids are completely addicted to them and I hate it. I think that place is unhealthy. Ronald McDonald freaks me out. But here is the thing… McDonalds is just too powerful. The kids are going to want to go there no matter what, so I might as well use it to my advantage. A trip to McDonalds has gotten my kids to do everything from finishing homework to picking up dog poop.
The dollar store ($1-$5): For kids, a trip to the dollar store is runner up to Disneyland. They mostly sell expired gum and DVD’s from the late 90s, but for some reason my kids really dig that place. Suggesting a trip to the dollar store really gets them motivated and stops the bitching.
What are a few ways you motivate (bribe) your kids for under $5?
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley