How To Properly Bribe Your Kids Into Obedience

Parents who don’t admit to bribing their kids either aren’t being honest or are missing out on a crucial technique that can bring peace and satisfaction to their households. Bribes, which can be described more charitably as reverse threats, can help parents get work done at home, delegate household chores to completion and preserve general sanity.

A Yahoo post provides an illuminating bribing guide.

The key point is that, like any parenting technique (guilt, lying, shouting), bribery must be used in moderation. If offered too often, rewards for following your orders turn into expected payments.

It’s also important to stand firm when kids fall short of their end of the deal. To avoid giving in and handing out the reward anyway, shy away from mutually beneficial prizes, such as going together to a movie you really want to see.

Finally, it’s best not to distribute the goods too early. Instead, dangle the carrot in front of the children throughout the day as a way to keep them in line.

The Step-by-step Guide to Bribing Your Kids [Yahoo]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Digital_Headache says:

    My kids have had “my number” for years now. They’re letting me do the things that they want me to do.

    • Kate says:

      I once tried to bribe my daughter to quit misbehaving in a car when she was about 3, unfortunately she figure it out fast and immediately turned it around on me and started offering me bribes to not do things she didn’t like.

      She’s still a smart kid.

  2. lint42 says:

    The problem is, even if you do it in moderation, they are not expected to do what you say no matter what. They should clean their room no matter what, not just because you give them $5. $5 should be a reward after they clean it not a bribe to get them to clean it. Otherwise they will go through their life thinking that they deserve some sort of reward for everything they do.

    • sherrietee says:

      you don’t get too many raises at work, do you.

      • PHRoG says:

        To be fair…a large portion of the US workforce hasn’t seen many raises in recent years. :P

      • 12345678nine says:

        I don’t get any sort of funding for cleaning my house now as an adult either. It is still a responsibility though.

      • lint42 says:

        I am a stay at home dad so I don’t have to worry about raises. My wife however works for the county and actually got a decrease in her pay this year. We make $100 less a month due to healthcare rising that much monthly for the same coverage.

  3. Hi_Hello says:

    back in my day, if you dont do what you are told, you get whacked.

  4. chefboyardee says:

    Worst. Advice. Ever.

    Rewards, not bribes. World of difference.

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      And the reward should be “not getting beat”.

    • BuriedCaesar says:

      Agreed. We blatantly call the fun things our kid gets to do “privileges” and they can be lost, or extra can be granted, depending on the behavior. Pretty simple concept.

      • jimbobjoe says:

        Which is why you always see the language “we reserve the right” as opposed to “we reserve the privilege.”

  5. MrMagoo is usually sarcastic says:

    “…dangle the carrot in front of the children throughout the day as a way to keep them in line.”

    Ummm, I hate to tell you, but carrots do not work as bribes.

  6. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    What ever happened to doing stuff your parents told you to do because you’re a member of a family, and stuff just doesn’t get done by magic? Both of my parents worked full time, and I had to pitch in to help.

    When I got old enough to run the riding mower, from about 12 on, I was expected to mow the lawn during the day while on summer vacation while Dad was at work. I also mowed my grandparent’s lawn. As a little kid, I was expected to keep my toys picked up, dry dishes, and help Mom with the ironing. When I got older, I helped with the laundry, cleaning, etc.

    I got an allowance, which was separate, and if I didn’t do my chores, I wasn’t allowed to do fun stuff with my friends. That was my “carrot”.

  7. DariusC says:

    Fear is cheaper and more effective depending on the method of implementation. Also, it’s GOP approved! If Romney gets elected, you will be able to comfortably beat your children without fear of those pesky CPSOs coming after you!

  8. IT-Princess: I work in IT, you owe me $1 says:

    Praise should be the bribe. Praise when they are good, don’t praise when they are being bad.

    I have used 1-2-3 since my guy was a toddler and it’s still effective to this day. No matter what time it is, if I get to 3, he’s in his bed and loses a toy.
    It’s hard to be consistent as it’s not always convenient, but I can count on one hand the amount of times I have gotten to 3 in the past year. I say 1 and he knows I mean business.

    However, if he does things like put his clothes away or clean his room, I praise him, I don’t bribe him.
    “You’re the best boy EVER!” “You’re SO helpful!”
    Knowing we’re going to have an awesome day and that when he’s good that mommy is less stressed, and I have less to do and that means more time to play is enough for him.

    • TakingItSeriously is a Technopile says:

      Totally with you on the 1-2-3 Magic. We started using it a few months ago and at first it was hard. Now it takes a single “Elijah, that’s 1” and it usually ends up in curbed behavior. Sometimes the curbing is him storming (quietly) off to his room for 2 or 3 minutes, but it works.

      Praise is lavish when he’s being helpful and making good decisions especially when it’s on his initiative.

      • IT-Princess: I work in IT, you owe me $1 says:

        I really can’t say enough good things about it. I started it when he was about 3 because he was SO difficult and I was losing my mind. It was recommended to me by the county assistance people who were coming for his speech and sensory delays.
        It was really hard at first but now it’s second nature. And you have to stick with it even in public.
        I can also hold out my finger like a 1 and give the mom look.
        I love it!

        It makes me feel really good though, and I over heard my grandmother talking about my son last week telling another family member how well behaved he is and that I only have to say “one”. I think that’s the best testament to it, when old school grandma is down.

    • Martha Gail says:

      I had an employee that 1-2-3 worked on. He never followed directions and was mouthy to the other managers. One night I’d had enough of him and I started the count, mostly to make a point about him acting childish, but it worked. From then on, if he was refusing to do his job, I’d just count.

  9. Snowblind says:

    We have been using with my son who has Aspergers, a form of Autism.

    You can set it up to give them points, and points translate to money or non-monetary rewards.

    Making clear the connection between doing work (Chores and extra jobs) and getting to play (Wii or PC, watch TV) has a clear impact on his ability to stay on task and get things done.

    We don’t have to argue, If you have no points, you can’t buy time on the electronics.

    If he does his chores, he has enough to “play” 2 to 3 hours a day, more on weekends, and buy a new game every 2 to 4 months.

    Playing with Legos or outdoors is always free, of course. =)

    • DariusC says:

      Not sure if you already are, but you may want to check out the Asperger’s support groups on Facebook and around the internet. They are a wealth of knowledge for those diagnosed and undiagnosed, as well as support. A more open system that takes less supervision is something I recommend. Telling him that he can do what he wants as long as his school is up to standard and his chores are taken care of is much easier on you and him. Teach him to be independent and self-motivated early on so you can save yourself on the parenting now and later. I do understand, however, that things are easier said than done. Good luck!

      • Snowblind says:

        We tried more open systems, but there is an attraction for him to see the points “going up” and having achieved the goals.

        Takes only 5 min or so to do this per day. We get a report of what he claimed he did, we hit “yes” or modify it.

        Site takes care of him spending on “free” items, we have approve a money purchase. The site seems to be affiliated with Amazon, because it lets him shop and wish list items and pay for it with points he has turned in for money.

  10. Cat_In_A_Hat says:

    I have to admit I was bribed as a child when it came to school and my grades. Starting in 6th grade and until my senior year of high school my dad gave me $20 for every A I brought home on each report card and a bonus $100 for getting a 4.0 on the final semester ending report card (B’s and below meant no dinero :-( ). Simultaneously my dad also taught me the meaning of saving and had me start a savings account at a young age which was partially funded by the money I made from doing well in school. I busted my butt to bring home good grades and carried that mentality with me through high school, earned a full-ride to Berkeley, and am also very savvy with money today. I think bribery can work well only if there are additional lessons taught along with them.

    • DariusC says:

      Reward, not bribery. Bribery requires a return on investment after the money is given. Reward is a payout after task completion.

  11. milk says:

    I learned quickly with my sister (who’s 11 years younger than I am) that the best punishment was taking away her TV privileges. I’d put her in her room, let her play with any toy and do whatever she wanted so long as she didn’t leave her room, with the only stipulation that I’d better not hear her TV come on. She would scream and wail like I was torturing her. It was hilarious.

  12. arsenicookie says:

    My son gets a happy face on the calender for days that he is a good boy. Occasionally we’ll get him a toy that he wants and he has to earn it with a certain number of happy faces. It works pretty well.

  13. Conformist138 says:

    Kids learn to play their parents like fiddles. All kids, to all parents. Period. Any parent who denies it isn’t paying attention (or they have particularly stupid kids).

    My favorite was when I realized that my normally tough-as-nails mom is secretly sentimental for her own childhood. She told a story about how she once convinced her parents to buy her an expensive coat by pretending she really wanted and even more costly item. The “compromise” got her what she really wanted.

    So, I learned not to mimic that exact scenario, but to mimic it in a way that she would notice. It would make her laugh that I was just like her when she was a kid and, presto, I got what I wanted! It also helped that I refused to ask for anything until I REALLY wanted something, so I didn’t over use any tactics I found that worked.

    • Luckie says:

      Yep! I think smart parents are just the ones who realize how much they’re being duped, and just pick their battles wisely! :)

      Example – when I was a kid, we did the monthly grocery trip thing, and the whole station wagon would be full of groceries. Everyone was supposed to help carry everything inside and put it away in the kitchen. It’s really weird, but it just so happened that a whole lot of times, I would have to pee really bad as soon as we got home! So I would go in the house and in the bathroom and take my sweet time in there, and only have to help carry a bag or two in.

      Was my mother fooled? No way. I thought so at the time though, and she was smart enough to let me think I was getting away with something. She just decided that it wasn’t worth calling me out on, and to save her energy on something that was more important.

  14. TakingItSeriously is a Technopile says:

    This article misses one very important distinction. Rewarding children for things is part of teaching them. Rewards can be many things; from money to extra TVGame time. Allowing the child to have the reward in advance constitutes a bribe.

  15. Outrun1986 says:

    I was bribed as a kid, but I got $20 for getting a good grade on my report card while the other kids in my class got a couple hundred just for getting above a 80 average so some parents take it to the extreme. Eventually the reward was $50 for a 90 average in high school and I managed to get that one. This was in the 90’s. I guess I should have started off getting really bad grades then the reward probably would have been substantially more if I got good grades, because it was often the kids who had just passing grades that were offered quite a lot of money for bringing those grades up. Of course I had to have the grade before I got the reward.

    Some parents were still paying their kids in college for grades too, of course I went to a college where parents handed their preppy children money for abercrombie and alcohol on a whim or whenever they asked.

    My cousin was offered a brand new TV in his room for reading a small book, he hates to read..

    • sponica says:

      i view my merit scholarship as the school paying me for my good grades….I mean they knocked half the price off as long as I maintained a 3.0

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      Our reward for straight A’s is that she won’t get grounded. If she falls below an 88, she starts getting consequences, especially since she scores 80 points above the highest average level of kids in her grade on her MAP tests in school and is highly gifted. There really is no reason she should make below 95’s on anything, so we are being generous.

      If grades start to be a problem, we will assign a point system where she gets points for certain grades and has to buy her privileges (all A’s will give her enough for all of her privileges.) We won’t be “taking things away”, rather she will start at ground zero and have to earn everything she has with her points that she earns with each grade.

  16. Memtex784 says:

    Back in my day when a “Time Out” was when my dad took time out of his day to kick my ass when I did something very wrong. I turned out fine.

  17. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    I hate bribes. My friend used to bribe her kid to behave in the store. It got to where she wouldn’t act right unless she got something. My way of doing things is that you don’t get in trouble/spanking if you behave. You get nothing but a thanks for good behavior.