A Mother’s Guide to a Good Bribe

“I’ll let you watch Finding Nemo for the 3rd time today if you eat your tea”

Bribery – a bargaining tool, a godsend or a self-inflicting torture device. No matter what age your child is, undoubtedly at some point, bribery will be your only gameplan.
Over the past two years, bribery has featured heavily in my mothering techniques. At times, I’ve immediately regretted this decision. At others, I’ve been incredibly grateful for such winning little tricks.

As awesome as a bribe may be, there’s a definite dark side. A bribe can be a gamble – it’ll either pay off dividends or cause you so much more hassle in the long run.

With that in mind, here’s five tips to the good bribe.

1) Be Consistent

With most toddlers, consistency is paramount…when it comes to discipline, rewards and bribery! Your toddler will suss out pretty quickly whether it’s worth taking the bait. If he or she feels as though your bribes are flakey, they’ll be less likely to see the advantage of taking it. Never offer a bribe which you have no intention of honouring. Remember the boy who cried wolf? Well, when the wolf arrived no-one took him seriously and this is exactly what will happen. The one time you need your child to accept a bribe, they’ll be thinking ‘yeah right, you said that last time and I’m still waiting for a month’s supply of Milky Bar’. 

Not my finest bribe “Finish your tea and I’ll let you have a chocolate pot”

This brings me nicely to my next point.

2). Don’t make unrealistic bribes

A bribe is a delicious little gift to help you through your day with more ease…or silence. It’s main purpose is to aid you not hinder you. If you offer unrealistic bribes, you may be at risk of making more work for yourself. For instance, don’t offer a bribe which will cost you money, time or patience. Be resourceful! If you suggest to your child that you’ll take them to the park for a run around, this could be a lovely concept but have you time today to fulfil this? Were you intending on taking them already or did you have other plans that you’ll now need to change? If so, you haven’t won…you’ve definitely lost the battle however sweet the victory felt when the bait was bitten. 

“We’ll take you to Beamish if you put your shoes on real quick” score – we were going anyway
 
3). Choose your bribes wisely

A packet of crisps may not be part of a stable diet but without doubt, they are adored by toddlers all over the world. Personally, I’d rather offer crisps as a bribe over chocolate or cake. In saying that, some crisps are not worth the bother. Take a Cheesy Wotsit, the golden puffs of wheat can be a delicious treat but the residue they leave behind will stain everything in their path. A pombear will fulfil the brief without half the mess. Fruit can be an even better offering (especially if you’re luckier to have one of those delightful souls who enjoy it) but once again, choose fruits which are self efficient and easy to prepare. 

The banana – little mess, cheap and full of goodness

4). Time your bribes 

Picture this, it’s a Saturday morning. You’ve been up since 5 am and just want five minutes peace and quiet. It feels like the ideal time to thrash out the promise of a Disney film. You’ll be able to recuperate and even enjoy a warm cup of tea…but are you desperate? Dropping the bribe too soon could be detrimental in the  long run. Wait until you’re completely flagging, that way, it will feel ever more sweet. Mainly, my bribes are timed with deadlines ‘if you get in your car seat, I’ll put the nursery rhymes on for you’ is one I use religiously when in a rush to get out of the house. Bribes have saved my not-so-little behind on several occasions when tardiness isn’t an option.

“One chocolate but then you have to go straight to bed”

My last piece of advice is:

5). Don’t rely heavily on bribery.

Yes, bribery done well is an absolute art form but overusing it can devalue the impact. Utilise bribery in a way which asserts your power and control over your child. Relying too heavily on bribes will reveal a weakness to your toddler and let’s face it, toddlers are like a pack of wolves, they sniff out weakness and use it to their own seedy advantage. They’ll become expectant of a bribe and will eventually learn to play you at your own game. We are all owned by our children – bribery is our one chance to have the upper hand.


I can’t promise that following these tips will transform your journey but I’m pretty sure they’ll help conquer bribery to a tremendous degree.

Enjoy and bribe well xx


Like my blogs? You’ll also find me on Facebook at ARTventurers Durham

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