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Parenting Experts Bribe Their Kids Too

As a parent, you attempt to respond appropriately to your children’s behavior. In a NY Times article titled “Train a Parent, Spare a Child” by Bruce Feller, the topic of modifying a child’s behavior without resorting to bribes is addressed by several Parenting experts. You may ask “Was there any consensus to be found in their opinions?” In short, no. In fact, some even condoned the occasional bribe. Go figure.

In my parenting experience, conflict resolution comes down to time and place with an emphasis on time management. If trouble arises in a public setting, there’s an escalated urgency to diffuse it. A good old fashioned tantalizing offer can stamp out the brightest burning blazes if used effectively yet sparingly. For example, trading a cookie for short term compliance from your child reaps results quicker than a time consuming conflict filled with painstaking disagreement between parent and child. No disrespect to those who advocate emotional coaching, but there are simply real life scheduling issues that don’t lend themselves to open ended teaching moments. Still, I would suggest to not rely on your child behavior modification trump card aka bribery too often or you’ll end up routinely getting played by the wily rascals.



Moderation has been a stalwart approach in my family’s day to day trials and tribulations but other families’ styles may differ. Template parenting doesn’t work no matter how many “millions of copies sold!” by the current parenting guru. I’d sooner defer to Star Wars Jedi Master Yoda’s wisdom about being assertive in one’s actions “Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.” Or emulate Star Trek’s Mr. Spock’s ability to detach himself emotionally during crisis scenarios enabling him to make rationale decisions. Balance, gauging the situation, maintaining respect, patience, humility and a healthy sense of humor factor into the mix of parenthood. It’s an ongoing challenge.

So is resorting to bribing your children a bad thing? It’s an open question you’ll need to answer. And perhaps the next time Parenting Experts implore you to buy their books coupled with a deep discount in price, you’ll think about the whole bribery question anew.

What’s your opinion? Leave a comment below. Be sure to stop by our Facebook page to “Like” us, won’t you?

  • I don’t think it’s bad. But you don’t want to create an exchange relationship with your kid where they expect something in return for everything you ask them. When my son wants something, sometimes I’ll require him to do a task to get it. I use iPad time as a reward for not pitching a fit about potty time. And when he throws a hissyfit when it’s time to get out of the race car shopping cart and go home, he gets to get out of time out if he calms down.


    • cutemonster

      That’s a great measured approach Mike. And I agree, moderation is key. – Vincent

  • I bribed my son on occasion. Sometimes money talks. However, I never gave in when he was having a temper tantrum. I didn’t want him to end up thinking that’s the way you got things in life.

    • cutemonster

      It’s good to pick one’s battles, that’s for sure. Did you ever make an exception Eleonora, for example, when running late for a flight? Or were you steadfast in that approach no matter what? – Vincent

  • The word “bribe” has such a negative connotation that this discussion is automatically tilted. Let’s use “reward” instead or even “pay.” We adults get paid for the work we do – unless we blog (lol) – usually. And, we get bonuses for jobs well done in some cases.

    Why is this NOT a good teaching tool for our kids? I, for one, believe in paying for grades. And, in requiring “work” for allowance. Both have taught my children the “value” of hard work and the value of rewards and pay.

    To me, this is a good thing!

    • cutemonster

      Thanks for chiming in Bruce. Rewarding children for hard work or a job well done certainly is an invaluable teaching tool. In the context of this post, bribing children is more along the lines of diffusing a difficult situation quickly by means of a treat or toy, etc. It’s mostly directed towards handling public outbursts in an efficient way rather than a prolonged resolution. What are your thoughts about that? Would you miss the plane, concert, etc. to deal with an outburst or opt for a quick fix on occasion to keep things moving by way of a tempting offer?

      • Gee Vincent, you’re not supposed to ask me a HARD question like that!

  • I agree with Bruce and have a great article that I wrote from my own personal life experiences taught to me by my 86 neighbour over the white picket fence one day.Well it started over the white picket fence.

    • cutemonster

      Hi John. Can you sum up the lessons learned?