How To Bribe Your Kids (Without Corrupting Them)

Go on, admit it.

You've tried bribing your kids.

It's OK. We've all done it.

At some point, we've all offered our kids a reward for certain behaviour. A lolly to stop crying. A dollar to clean up their room. Some time on the iPad if they do some reading.

We all do it because once we become parents we experience one sensation far more frequently than non-parents.

I'm talking about Desperation. And yes it does have a capital 'D' after you have kids.

No one can understand Desperation properly until they've been sleep deprived by a newborn. Or tormented by a demented toddler.

Or tortured by a tween who keeps asking for the same thing over and over and over.

Even though you've told her 'No'.

Desperation drives us to give up and give in. To be worn down by little people constantly saying "pleeeease!" or "NOW can I watch TV" (every five minutes).

So in Desperation we resort to bribery.

And we learn that it's completely ineffective.


Bribery Doesn't Work

OK, we know it's wrong but leaving aside the moral and ethical issues, the fact is that it just doesn't work.

It may seem to be working the first time, but sooner or later the kids want more for less. Greater rewards for less input.

The salvation you thought you'd found goes horribly awry.

Kids start crying just to get a lolly. Or they want a dollar to make their bed, not clean their room. Or the deal for 30 minutes reading being rewarded with 30 minutes on the iPad gets out of balance.

And 2 minutes reading results in an hour on the iPad.

So we learn from bitter experience not to use bribery and corruption with our kids. Because they seem to be so much better at it than us.

But here's a secret you may not know.

You can use bribery effectively with kids. You just need to know how to do it right.

And once you do, you don't even have to feel guilty about a little bribery. Because it's actually just a way for you to have your cake and eat it.

Better Than Bribery

OK, it's not really bribery. I'm just trying to sound bad-ass and I'm not very good at it!

It's a negotiation technique that results in a win-win outcome.

You can use it every day. And your kids can't turn it against you.

All you need is the right situation. One where you want your kids to do something and they want to do something else.

I'm thinking of things like:

  • You want them to put their shoes on and get ready for school, and they want to watch TV.
  • You want them to do their teeth before bed, and they want you to read them a story.
  • You want them to wash their hands before dinner, and they want to start eating straight away

All you have to do is tell them that in order to get what they want, they must complete the action you want them to take.

I call it "So that" and here's how you'd structure the sentence: So that you can [incentive] you need to [take action].

Here's how you might use it:

  • So that you can watch TV, you need to put your shoes on and get ready for school
  • So that you can listen to a story, you need to brush your teeth for bed
  • So that you can eat dinner, you need to wash your hands

Simple, isn't it? And it's effective.

Get What You Want

So that you can get your kids to do what you ask, you just need to practice this technique.

See? It's so effective you can use it with anyone - adults, kids, colleagues, friends. Anyone. I just used it on you (you knew that, right?)

It might take a little practice, but it's not hard. And you're smart so I know you can do it.

Give it a shot today and you'll be creating win-win situations all over the place. Even at home, with your kids.And they won't even know you're doing it.

Take a couple of minutes now to think about how you can put it to use.

You'll be a master in no time.

Don't forget ...

Join our community of parents who want to stop yelling and create a family that listens to each other. You'll be notified when a new post is up, and receive a complimentary copy of our Cheat Sheet: Get Your Kids From "No" to "Yes" In Three Simple Steps. Pop your details in the box below to get started.

Sharing is caring!


Cate is on a mission to help parents stop yelling and create families that listen to each other. She does this while imperfectly parenting two boisterous girls of her own, and learning from her mistakes. She has contributed to Tiny Buddha, Think Simple Now, A Fine Parent and many other awesome sites.