The Beauty of Bribery

Before Christmas, I wondered whether or not a Wii would be a worthwhile present for kids as young as mine. Can I just say, the first time we plugged it in after the accident (it was in the car with us) and it fired right up, there was much rejoicing (from kids and parents both). And when my Guitar Hero guitars still worked–well, I almost wept.

All of my kids have a blast with the Wii. The biggest fan, by far, is Wyatt*. Really, I’m not at all surprised by this–it goes along with his analytical nature. That child has figured out how to get the Wii Sports game to do things that we had no idea it could do. And when Sean bought the Lego Star Wars game? He and Noah pretty much stopped interacting with the rest of the family.

As I watched Wyatt easily spend the entire morning going from one game to another (hey, at least he was doing something active–it is butt cold around here right now), I knew that things would have to change. So I decided to institute some new rules. Namely, no Wii until your bed is made, toys are picked up upstairs, and the toy room downstairs is in reasonable shape. Some days, the Wii doesn’t get turned on at all (it is amazing the havoc four boys can wreak on one room). Other days, like today, it gets turned on fairly early (but doesn’t stay on all day). Wyatt, however, has gone from the kid who whined, complained, and avoided cleaning at all costs to the kid who has his bed made before he comes out for breakfast. We are talking a huge change in attitude.

Along those same lines, we decided that this past Saturday needed to be a cleaning day around here (OK, everyday needs to be a family cleaning day around here, but that’s not the point…). Sean told the kids that if they worked hard, they could earn a couple of dollars that they would be allowed to spend in the arcade at their favorite pizza buffet. The kids worked hard (Wyatt went military on our toilets). They earned their dollars. For the next two days, I endured darn near hourly inquiries from Caleb as to whether or not it was time to go to the pizza place.

Last night, we got our family night out at the pizza place. We invited both grandfathers to come along (technically, we invited the grandmothers too, but they both had to work). We ate ourselves silly. The kids played games. They got candy and cheesy toys out of the machines. Noah had his heart temporarily broken when Mommy couldn’t manage to win him an IPod out of one of the games. It was a great time. And they knew that they had earned it (well, most of it–the grandpas were slipping them extra quarters here and there).

You know, I’ve never been an advocate of rewarding kids for doing things that they should be responsible for doing anyhow. I feel like they should grow up understanding that it is their responsibility to be productive members of the family. But, if I had to use the infamous Dr. Phil, “How’s that working for you?” standard, well… I’m starting to see the benefit of the occasional bribe reward.

Who knows, maybe–someday–I’ll get this mothering thing figured out after all.


*Yes, I have decided to start actually using my kids names. My original decision not to was based on someone else’s fears. While I am still very protective of our privacy, I’ve come to the conclusion that, without our last name, no one is going to be tracking us down. For that matter, I know tons of people who use last names and say where they live, and none of their kids have been stalked or abducted, yet.



Filed under Daily Life, Kids, Parenting

3 responses to “The Beauty of Bribery

  1. Its amazing how far a reward system can go when its used sparingly. That’s the beauty of it…if its not used too often its awesome. But the hard part is finding that balance. Sounds like you’ve got it down.

  2. I’m a fan of rewarding positive behavior. :o)

  3. I’ve recently fallen off that pedestal myself. Bribery, used sparingly, is a wonderful wonderful tool.

    As for the wii, ours is broken, sniff. How will we survive while it is being repaired? We are talking WEEKS here! I think I may have mentioned that I didn’t think it was great for little ones but I’ve had a change of heart, too. Addison could spend hours in front of the wii just making her ‘guy’ run around the same room and jump sometimes! HAPPY DAY! That spells *shower* for me!!! 🙂

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