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Monday, November 8, 2010

If Then What

A calm has been ushered into this house since Halloween passed last week.  A calm strong enough to overcome the wacky sugar highs my children can get off of one piece of fun-sized candy.  A calm so soothing, I feel as if the past year of non-sensical toddler tyranny has been leading up to this reward and has been worth it.

It is the calm of bribery.

At 27 months, my children are finally able to understand a core concept of life: If you do this thing, then you can have that thing.

This takes on many variations throughout the day, and my children are patient enough with me that I can put them off several times before having to come up with the goods, which keeps actual candy consumption to a minimum. 

So that our morning often sounds like this:


"No, no pops until after breakfast.  You have to eat breakfast first.  Then we're going for a walk.  So, you can have a pop after your walk."

There is no tantrum, no frenzy of tears, no acting out.  There is only a quiet acceptance that lollipops will eventually be had.

"Choca mook."

"No, no chocolate milk until after dinner.  You know that.  You have to eat your dinner first."

How many meals these days are eaten solely on the promise that treats are coming?  I used to dread meals.  I didn't even want to feed my kids, such was the ordeal.  But with the simple addition of bribery, mealtime went from a time of cajoling, begging, threatening my kids to take a bite, to a quiet time of happiness as the babies think of their treats to come, and I look at their full bellies with approval.

Is bribery the best way to raise your kids?  Absolutely not.  Is it the best way to get a two year old to put her toys away quietly?  In my experience, yes.  Bribery is just another link on the chain of baby evolution.  I look on it as a celebration of their development rather than a weakness in my parenting style.  As they understand more and more of the world around them, the bribery will become less obvious.  It will look more like simple understanding of cause and effect.  After all, don't we all do things based on the hope that something better is coming along?  It's a pity we can no longer be satisfied with a mini Snickers bar.

So, parents who have children not quite at this age, be comforted.  The age of bribery and understanding is coming, and it is beautiful here.

Only one storm cloud lingers in the distance, and that's the question: what happens when we run out of Halloween candy?


  1. Darlena,
    I just love your writing. And while my daughter is too old for me to apply your wise advice to our daily lives, I still chuckle, and enjoy every passage that I read. Thank you for a bright light, daily. xo

  2. Those Halloween marshmallow pumpkins were the only way we made it through potty training. She could have one when she went tinkey. Once she got it she went on pure intrinsic value and the use of pumpkins tapered off to nothing. If done correctly it can be a good learning tool.

  3. The solution to running out of Halloween candy is clearly buying more candy XD There is always some cheapo candy at like a Dollar General.

  4. I always say that bribery solves everything in our house. My 3 year old will clean her entire room, top to bottom for 1 single m&m, lol.

  5. I can't imagine parenting without bribery...and I agree that sometimes it is just good consequences for good behaviour.

  6. I paid an 8 year old $20 to get her dental work done without general anesthetic. She had tears running out her eyes the entire time, and her little arms were shaking, but that $20 was well worth it. Please note: she had local anesthetic, so it wasn't that hardcore, but $20 for use at Toys R Us was way cheaper than a $400 general anesthetic fee.

  7. having to wait till after dinner for chocolate mook isn't bribery, not really. They make me work 37 hours a week for a paycheck once a month and keep a big chunk of it anyway!! It's all about perspective?




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