Posted by: Kate | June 25, 2008

“What’s a Bribe?”

[INDOOR SCENE, EVENING – Mother returns home after a 12-hour day at work.  Eight-year-old daughter is in bed, reading.]

MOTHER:  Hey.  How was your night?


MOTHER:  [whispers] Did you get in trouble?

DAUGHTER:  A little.

MOTHER:  [whispers] Did you get yelled at?

DAUGHTER:  A little.

MOTHER:  [returns to speaking voice] OK.  You’ve been getting yelled at a lot lately.  Let’s try something new.  I’ll bribe you.

DAUGHTER:  What’s a bribe?

MOTHER:  A bribe is when you shamelessly discard all former philosophies and ideas about parenthood.  [Pause.] It’s when you pay your kid to behave.


MOTHER:  Yes.  If you can get through the whole day tomorrow without getting yelled at, I’ll give you a dollar.

DAUGHTER:  [Pause.  Nods] I can do that.

[They exchange good-night kisses.  Fade to black.]



  1. Simply excellent.

  2. Whatever works …

    And if it does in fact work, please let me know. There are days when I’ll try absolutely anything!

  3. Now you’re speaking her language.

  4. I am so stealing this! You rock!

  5. I don’t know if it’s a bribe or positive reinforcement. My counselor says that with some kids, the pathways in their heads aren’t developed enough, and whatever you can do to begin to lay down those “behave” grooves, the easier it will be for them to find them and use them later.

    My kids can only go about 30 minutes, though, and then the promised good thing isn’t enough and they have to hit, yell, whatever. So better luck!

  6. I am SO down with bribery! In order to encourage The Girl to finally work out #2 in the potty instead of elsewhere, I told her she could pick out her prize, but she had to do #2 in the potty to get it. She said she wanted a birthday cake and I agreed to the negotiation. I kid you not – less than an hour later she held up her end of the deal, so we loaded up and went to the grocery store for her to pick out a birthday cake. The bakery clerk looked confused when she asked if we wanted something written on it, and The Girl threw up her hands and chirped, “Happy Poop Day!” Granted she’s closing in on 17 now, and cringes when I tell that story, but dammit bribery WORKS!

  7. drsharna, that’s a great story!!
    Kate, I wish you all the luck with this – if it works please let me know, granted mine don’t understand bribery yet however once they do maybe I can too. 10 minutes after an arrangement is mad it all falls apart.

  8. I am sooo not above bribery. My motto is, “Whatever works!”

  9. That’s how the boys made it to Disney World – I made a deal that they had to stop fighting for a year! I’ve been warned to scale back my bibes a bit from now on because my children (at least the boys) will take the bait!! 🙂

  10. welcome to American parenting. 😉

  11. It’s worth a shot.
    Kate, you know, I promise to be good.
    Mail mine to….

  12. It’s not bribery! It IS positive reinforcement. We had a ‘star chart’ once you reach x amount of stars for good behaviour or helping out, you get a prize. I let the kids choose what they wanted prior to the stars being posted so they knew what they were working towards. It works!

    I’m with Annie, I told Clare that if I ‘never’ had a report with ‘could try harder’ written on it (or words to that effect) I’d take her to Disneyland in Year six. . .guess what . . she maintained it for six years and cost me $20,000 (well we took five weeks to get there since we went via Europe!)

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