Desperate Parents Confess: ‘I Bribe My Kids’


ThinkstockPhotos-477623704Comedian Carey Reilly had to take an important call, and she didn’t have time to entertain any funny business from her 7-year-old son.

So the 30-something mom offered her daughter $10 to occupy her brother—which was met with a demand for $20.

This clearly wasn’t the first time Reilly had resorted to bribery. In the past she’d gone so far as to persuade her 10-year-old daughter to read by plying her with cash—hence how the little girl knew the art of the counteroffer.

“I get very easily frustrated, and it gets them to do what I need them to do in the moment,” Reilly admits. “I need an immediate payoff.”

Turns out Reilly has plenty of company.

In a 2014 T. Rowe Price survey, 48% of parents fessed up to bribing their kids for good behavior, and 46% of those recently polled by admitted that they would swap cash for stellar grades.

But while cash rewards can deliver satisfying short-term results for Mom and Dad, what’s the long-term impact on the bribee?

According to Michael Yogman, who chairs The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, bribing kids is a dangerous slippery slope.

“The notion that the only value is in monetizing everything robs kids of control over their own decision-making,” Yogman explains. “There are things you want to do because they’re correct, ethical and socially appropriate—and you want kids to internalize those values.”

To see just how slippery a slope the practice can be, we shared parents’ confessions with psychology and money pros for their no-holds-barred insight on kiddie bribery.

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  • thepixinator

    “I get very easily frustrated, and it gets them to do what I need them to do in the moment,” Reilly admits. “I need an immediate payoff.”

    This is the core problem. Parents are unwilling to tolerate their own discomfort for even a nano-second so they resort to quick & easy shortcuts that teach their children nothing. In fact, it teaches their children to be unable and unwilling to tolerate THEIR OWN discomfort.
    The first parent in these stories needs to suck it up and take the time to teach her 7-year-old how to play without being a rambunctious pain-in-the-a$$ so Mom can take a call. At 7 the kid is surely old enough to learn to be marginally quiet for 20 minutes. Mom is unwilling to do the hard work of parenting, and now her kids are unwilling to do the hard work of behaving without some kind of financial incentive. That’s just wrong. You have to behave to live in a family PERIOD. That’s life. There ain’t no A-wards or Re-wards, as one of my friends says.

    • mostlywentzel

      I agree with you wholeheartedly. By paying kids to do, well, pretty much anything, is teaching them that money is the ultimate goal and you should not do anything for anyone unless there is something in it for you.

  • kgal1298

    if that volunteer course was anything like I did in the past it’s more of an unpaid internship that leads to a job later on it may not have been possible for her to work part time and the fro-yo stand and still volunteer. The only reasons I know that some orgs call it volunteering now is because they don’t want to be at risk of getting sued since this is why large companies like Conde Nast have ended their internship programs. Also, it did lead to a job offer for the next summer so I’d have to think there is more to it than what the writer let on.

    • pamb

      Yeah, I thought it was a bit hand-wring-y of the expert to be all “it’s unfair to the other volunteers if you’re being paid by your parents”. She got job experience, a chance to see what goes on in a hospital and a future paid job. And $10 an hour is not much more than minimum wage.

  • pamb

    I actually think the last one, paying your child to volunteer, makes the most sense. The child got to see what it was like to work in a hospital, and if she didn’t like what she saw, had an opportunity to rethink her future career. Give me a break about undermining the hospital by paying her to work while others were doing it for free. Internships are worth a resume line, so most people are getting something in return, even if it’s not financial.