The Fine Art of Parental Bribery

Bribery is such an ugly word. Let’s call it Symbiotic Motivational Bargaining instead. First, let me say I am all for a big focus on instilling intrinsic motivation in children and employing parenting tactics that utilize trust and mutual respect.

That said, sometimes bribery Symbiotic Motivational Bargaining can be a great way to move forward an otherwise unpopular parental agenda.

Case in point. I was trying to convince Alex that it would be a good idea for him to learn the basic structure of a five paragraph theme. While there may be some 13 year old boys who would whole heartedly agree, Alex was dubious of its merits and dodged the topic at any chance.

Then one day he asked if he could buy a video game with some title like “Run Around and Shoot Things Randomly” (ok, I have no idea what it was actually called but there were guns) and he tried to convince me of its merits, but, alas, I was immune to his advertisements.

See where I’m going with this? A light bulb LITERALLY*  illuminated above my head when I came up with the idea for Alex to write a five paragraph persuasive essay on WHY he should be allowed to buy this video game—successful completion of the essay would be his ticket to blow his money on an inappropriate video game. At first he eyed me suspiciously when I offered up the suggestion, but before the hour was out he was bugging me relentlessly for writing instruction.

I had an opportunity to use this technique with Jordan this weekend. She has fallen under the undead spell of all things vampire and was incensed when I said that she would not be watching “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” with us due to its Rated R rating. First she made her case by reviewing the parental guides on the movie and using their critique to launch the argument that, “it wasn’t any worse than other things she’s seen.” I was unenthusiastic about this argument, but her tenacity both impressed and wore on me so I hatched a plan and presented it to her.

She would research the life and times of the real Abraham Lincoln and then provide a verbal analysis of where the movie stayed true to the facts and where it strayed. She took the bait and set off to research. As we discussed during and after the movie, I realized she had a fairly good grasp of the actual history and was quite clear on the concept that the turning point of the Civil War at the Battle of Gettysburg did not actually have anything to do with adding silver weaponry to successfully deter hordes of vampires.  I call that a parenting win.

Do I still want to be considered a parent who extols the virtues of mutual parent/child respect? Of course. But, sometimes, Symbiotic Motivational Bargaining can be a part of that.

*  By Literally, I of course actually mean figuratively (click link for an in depth definition of the word literally).

You should have gone into advertising! The rebranding of “bribery” is genius. I like your motivators.

Brilliant! I love abusing the word “literally,” and I am all about the bribery, er, “Symbiotic Motivational Bargaining” of my children, and I stand by that. PS I clicked on the “literally” link… “Gayroller 2000″… Hahaha!!!


One thought on “The Fine Art of Parental Bribery

  1. Pingback: Storymatic–My Super, Silly Sentence Salvation « three blind wives

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