Bribery—An Endorsed Parenting Strategy (How to Survive Kindergarten)

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© Carrie De Simas

Carrie De Simas

Editor in Chief @ GoneWithTheWord

My son just finished his first day of junior kindergarten. Thanks to the nature of my business, he had been home with me from the day of his birth until now. I had him in social classes like gymnastics and cooking to help him make friends and socialize but otherwise, he had my complete attention.   

Kindergarten was the first time where I wasn’t right there. When my husband and I picked him for lunch, he didn’t want to go back—despite the allure of the water table and the blond girl who had already taken a shine to him.

So I talked to him and we worked out a deal: If he went to the afternoon portion of kindergarten, we would take him to Mastermind and let him pick out a special toy for being so brave. He agreed, reluctantly.

At three o’clock he came flying out the class door and true to our word, we took him to Mastermind. He picked out an awesome digger that weighs a ton. It is a big boy toy (as he has said repeatedly to his little brother as an excuse for not sharing it.)

When I mentioned this strategy to another parent, she said: “You shouldn’t bribe your child.”

I might (or might not have) imagined the haughty lift of her chin as she said it.

I asked her: “Do you work?”

“Of course,” she said.

“Do you get paid?”  

She looked at me shocked. “Of course!”

“Ever received a bonus for your performance?”

“Yes,” she said, pleased.

“Good. Then you’re familiar with bribery.”

She looked at me dumbfounded. “That’s not bribery! I work for these people.”

“Yes, exactly,” I said in complete agreement. “Before you started working for them, you agreed on payment, signed a contract and then set about accomplishing goals in order to receive that compensation. When you went above and beyond, you received extra compensation in the form of a bonus.” I smiled. “This is no different than what I did with my son. He and I agreed that if he went back to class for the afternoon that he would get a toy from Mastermind. We agreed to the terms, he upheld his end of the bargain and then received payment.”

She walked away. Her chin might have been held high, but I held the higher ground.

Bribery is the system we live in. So why not use it as a positive motivator for our children? Much better than the penile version of “do it or else” which teaches them to succumb to control.

But enough of that. I’m off to buy the banana chocolate chip cake that my son loves as today’s reward for his second successful full day of kindergarten.

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