As our children grow older and we keep checking off their developmental charts, they also become smarter. And by smarter, I mean they learn to manipulate us, parents. As parents, we think we are wiser than our little kiddos, but trust me they become master manipulators- leaving us to figure out how to deal with their knowledge. You may begin to ask yourself, “how do I take control of this manipulation?”. Well, parents, I happen to have the answer to your problems: BRIBERY!
We all do it. I mean, I know I have but sometimes I just do not have a choice! And I will openly admit that. I have a two-year-old son. He is an amazing little boy, and he behaves unbelievably well- for the most part– but he is still a two-year-old toddler who has his moments. Getting dressed, eating breakfast, or trying to get my toddler to take a quick potty break in between playing can honestly be a giant “chore” for me. Something that should be so simple can be a fifteen to thirty-minute ordeal and, let’s be real, we usually do not have that much time to play the “game of chasing our toddler around the house to get his underwear and clothes on”! So, this is where the amazing invention of bribery comes in to play.
I am fully aware that bribing a child can be frowned upon, but come on parents, I know we can all admit that sometimes a little bribery is beyond necessary. I am not saying that it is always okay to use the tactic of bribery to get your children to do something, but sometimes, when we are rushing out of the house trying to make an appointment on time, we need to give our kids a little incentive or compromise with them. (Hmm, incentive and compromise… That sounds better than bribery, I suppose, but we will just call it what it is- bribery).
Like I said above, I have a two-year-old toddler and he, without a doubt, thinks he has me completely wrapped around his finger. He probably does honestly, but little does he know I have one trick up my sleeve that 95% of the time allows me to get things done in an “orderly” fashion. I am not saying that I bribe my son with only sugary candy, I spread it out a good amount. Different occasions call for different forms of bribery. Bellow, I will explain the moments I pull out my parenting “secret weapon”. I have multiple tricks up my sleeve when it comes to bribing my son to get things done. There is the “getting my son dressed” bribe, there is the “getting my son’s shoes on” bribe, there is the “getting my son to go potty” bribe, and there is the “getting my son to do something like picking up his toys” bribe. Depending on my mood and my son’s mood, as well as what I am wanting from him to do/ how much time I have to play with to get whatever it is done, I use different bribery tactics.
If I am trying to get my son changed before a busy day but he only wants to play, he is young enough where I can simply bribe him with letting him pick out his underwear of choice. I usually allow us some time to play with if I am doing it this way but I will usually give him three options to choose from or if we have more time, I let him go through his whole underwear drawer and pick the undies he wants to wear for the day. If this is working for my son and me I kick it up a notch and even let him help me pick out his outfit and shoes (I usually give him two or three options so he does not look like a complete mess). When this form of bribery WORKS I know it is going to be a smooth sailing day. My son is at the age where he is trying to be super independent, and I want him to be! So, I allow him to be independent but secretly guide him.
Getting my son to stop what he is doing to take a potty break is… challenging… He LOVES his playroom and he LOVES being outside, so much to the point of literally not wanting to take two minutes to go pee. There will be moments when he clearly has to go potty but he just does not want to leave what he is doing! Situations like these call for a little different bribing tactic. My son is still relatively new to this whole potty training thing, so I cut him a little slack in this department, or I guess I just justify my bribing due to the fact that he is still a “beginner”. I like to pull the whole “if you go potty right now you can have an M&M after!” or, now that my son is more independent, I say something like “if you go potty now you can go potty by yourself and you can have a treat after!” (strictly when we are home but he loves being able to go potty without my help! He loves feeling like such a big boy!).
Throughout the recent time I have had learning the ropes on navigating how my toddler’s brain works, while I try to get him to do certain things, I have come up with two different bribery tactics. These bribery tactics basically stem from the questing “how can I manipulate my toddler’s manipulation of him not wanting to do something?”.
Number one: (on a good cooperative day)
- Make your child feel as though he is in control of the situation.
- Examples: allow them to pick out their own clothes, and praise their choices because they are “big kids”.
Number two: (on those wonderful “please do not be difficult” days)
- A little treat incentive never hurt anyone…
- I mean come on, it happens. Being a parent is not easy, especially a tired parent who has had a rough morning trying to get everyone out of the door. Sometimes it is truly necessary for our own sanity to say something like: “if you get into the bath you can have your fruit snacks (or gummy bears, either work) once you are all clean!”.
Whether it be bribing your child, compensating, negotiating, or providing an incentive, there is a right and wrong way to present this to your toddlers. One major fault to this could be that your extremely intelligent toddler may begin to think that they can manipulate the situation by saying “last time I got candy for going potty”. Personally, I try to stay away from the sweets but I know how much my son loves feeling independent. I have learned that by saying something like “if you clean up your toys after dinner then you can ride your bike in the front yard and I will watch you” (rather than me walking alongside him). This gives my son more independence and it also allows him to grow in confidence- rather than creating a monster (or “brat”)!
Kids are challenging and toddlers can be even more challenging to figure out. But honestly, I just wanted to admit to how I get certain things done speedy, and I hope you realize that it is okay to bribe your child every once in a while by remaining in control, of course! Just know, you are doing a great job with those kiddos!
Full disclosure, I do not bribe my son with everything we do throughout the day. I only use this tactic when it has been a rough start to a morning or long day with a toddler (and for my own sanity). We compensate. There may be a little bribing here and there but hey, that is parenthood for you. We all do it every once in a while, and that is okay!