Bribe and punishment

Bribing your children is wrong, right? It smacks of pushy parents who pay cash for an A, B or C. Or over-anxious parents of younger kids offering sweet rewards for every bit of green stuff. I mean, how are kids gonna value learning if they have to learn “only” to get paid, how a kids going to learn about healthy eating if they feel green stuff is something to get over with so the real fun can start?

Maybe. Let’s get a little deeper. Bribes are wrong, bribes are bad news, lazy measures for lazy parents who can’t control or reason with their kids. The last resort, a bad habit, second-rate parenting.


Picture this. A tired mum picks up two tired kids after school. Gets on train, then the metro, then faces the walk home. All the way there are dangers (tracks, strangers, pickpockets, closing doors). All the way there is crying, bickering, tiredness from their respective long days and lack of parental attention. The journey takes an hour of vigilance. Nerves a frayed on arrival at home, but dinner, baths and homework still need to be completed.

Is there really something wrong with said mum offering a sweet in return for staying close to her on the way home? Is it a bad thing if it allows her some control over them to ensure they still have all their fingers after tackling the half-dozen escalators they have to ride, to make sure they don’t run off into the crowd of commuters, or to help them all get home with the maximum good energy left to face the tasks of the evening ahead?

Picture this. Teens like money, teens like going out, buying new things. Exams are about memorizing stuff, stuff you often don’t use later. Parents know good grades unlock certain “levels” (I.e. the next one). Teens study more knowing they will get to buy stuff, and they get to next level. Win win.

Picture this. Kids eat spinach to get ice cream, kid learns that you eat savory healthy food before dessert, and eventually will do so out of habit, as most adults do.


I’m being devils advocate here. I am the first mum, yes. But I don’t have a teen, and when I do I don’t think I will bribe them (I will just “bribe” them for doing housework), and I have never and probably will never do the spinach-ice cream scenario because I just find something else they will eat before eating yoghurt for pudding which is the standard dessert around here. And I would accept yoghurt as a meal substitute in any case.

I just want to show that bribing can be useful, it can be necessary even, it can be ok. It can be one of the ways you get things done, make an unbearable situation bearable, sweeten the bitter pill. So, as with most things, lets not throw the baby out with the bath water and remember there are many right ways.

Bribe and punishment

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