What's So Bad About a Little Bribery?
The author does an about face and decides to try a new parenting tactic: bribery.
Long ago, I decided I would never bribe my kids to get them to do what they’re supposed to. Dangle a $20 bill in front of them for good grades? Ridiculous. Promise an extra scoop of ice cream if they ate all their beans? Nonsense. These are the tactics of lesser parents—those who don’t know how to push their kids’ internal motivation buttons so they want to do the right thing, regardless of the reward, right? Hah.
If being a mom has taught me anything, it’s that occasionally you must eat your words. This week, I did just that. I broke down and offered my 8-year-old son the biggest fattest bribe I could come up with. So far, it’s been the best decision I’ve made in a long time. Of course, I could end up eating these words, too.
First, some background. A diehard Orioles fan, my son is getting psyched for baseball season and would love to go to every home game—especially opening day. He also has been a terrible sleeper since he was born, much preferring to glom onto the nearest warm body while catching some zzz’s than to sleep in his own crib—now bed—all by his lonesome. It was cute when he was an infant, even a toddler.
But getting regular visits in the middle of the night from an 8-year-old who, once begrudgingly invited into his parents’ bed, kicks and twists his bony appendages every which way, then splays out when he settles down to sleep, is not welcome. Especially when it’s become a nightly adventure or, rather, misadventure.
At my wits' end and exhausted by the nightly torture, I said to my son six days ago something like this: Listen. You sleep in your bed, all night, every night, no excuses, for ten days in a row, and I will take you to opening day at the Yard. Deal?
I didn’t think it would pan out, but I was desperate. At that point, I would have offered him anything within my power to deliver. And I was pretty sure I could deliver on that promise, er, bribe.
The next morning, something felt different. Strange. Good strange. I actually woke feeling well-rested. The reason? I hadn’t been up all night negotiating with my son, walking him back to his room multiple times before finally insisting that he walk the few lonely yards to his room by himself. Nor had I been squished into a corner of the bed, where I was too cramped to even roll over.
Next morning, same thing. And so on. Five days running now. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the prospect of attending opening day at Camden Yards keeps my son in his bed for another five nights. By then, I figure, it will be second nature. He’ll keep it up for the remainder of his youth.
If not? I’ll have to hope Buck Showalter can lead the Orioles to the playoffs. Then I'll have to up the ante. What 8-year-old Orioles fan wouldn't stay in his bed all night if bribed with playoff tickets?