"I love you and want for you all things that make you happiest; and I guess you, not I, are the one who knows best what those things are."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

When A Bribe Is Worth It

In my life BC (Before Children) I always told people that "Student affairs is NEVER above bribing."  I learned a lot of things about college students in graduate school, but I had that lesson down waaaay before I earned my masters degree.  Let's face it...the fastest way to get college students out of their dorm rooms and to an event is to mention free pizza and soda.  You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out!

That having been said, BC I always thought that I wouldn't "bribe" my children for good behavior.  I wouldn't "bribe" them to eat their dinner.  I wouldn't "bribe" them for anything.  It's one thing to bribe someone else's teenager - it's another thing to bribe your own child.  As a parent you ought to be able to reason with your child, teach them that good manners are the only manners accepted, and gently remind them that tantrums don't get you anything.  So how does this philosophy stack up now that I'm a parent...?  Philosophies change!

While I still lean on the side of ignoring tantrums, using good manners, and attempting to reason with my children - the reality is that sometimes, just sometimes, a bribe is worth it.  As far as I can tell the sometimes seems to be directly related to the need for mom to keep her sanity and proportional to the amount of time said sanity is necessary.  Let me provide today's example:

We walk into Dierberg's for a quick (30 mins) grocery stop.  John spots the race car carts and points.  I suggest that we use a regular cart so that Nathan has somewhere to sit comfortably.  John whines.  With only 30 minutes to get through the store - it's not worth it. 
Bribe #1:  If we drive the race car cart you have to sit quietly and let mommy get the shopping done. 
-I need to get through the store quickly and not miss anything on the list.  Race car cart is big, bulky and hard to steer.  My sanity will remain in tact while maneuvering the cart but a crying toddler for 30 minutes might push me over the edge.
Shopping commences with Nathan seated on the ledge between the car and the handle (you know, right where the picture on the cart says not to put your child).  We make it through produce, deli, canned goods, dairy and snack aisles.  Then we venture down the personal care aisle looking for hair supplies for Dad.  As I stop to search the shelves for the most elusive hair gel I've ever encountered, John spots a L'Oreal children's shampoo with Buzz Lightyear/Woody/Rex/Jessie on it.  "Buzz" "Buzz" "Buzz" with pointing and tugging on my sleeve.  I decide that the hair gel isn't available at Dierbergs and start down the aisle.  Whining - no wailing - ensues.  I only need to check-out and get to the car.  We have 15 minutes until a meeting that is 5 minutes away.
Bribe #2:  If we get the Toy Story shampoo we can't open it until we get home and you can't whine when mommy washes your hair.
-10 minutes to get out of the store and load groceries and boys in the car with sanity in tact so that I can function cohesively at my meeting...the $6.58 was worth it.  Yes, $6.58 because we bought a bottle with Buzz and a bottle with Woody.
So we get to the checkout, pay, load groceries, and drive to our meeting.  I arrive on time, sane (for the most part) and with relatively happy boys. 

New philosophy - SOMETIMES parents are NEVER above bribing...

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