Does bribing a toddler make me a bad parent?

Does bribing a toddler make me a bad parent?

You’ve exhausted all of your expert negotiation skills and your child still won’t do what you ask them, so you have to turn to bribing your toddler.

How does it make you feel?

Are you OK with it?

Or does the fact that you’ve given into incentives bother you?

Since it’s often just what you have to do to get through a day, my take on it is that it depends on the situation, and also on the bribe.

If like mine, your toddler has suddenly decided to stop listening to you, fails to do as you ask, and is reeeeeeeally pushing those boundaries, sometimes it’s just what has to be done.

And the last few weeks here at home have been a real test.

It seems that hot days, lots going on, and not enough sleep (for any of us) has created a potential walking bomb that can go off at any time.

The parent trap

I have tried the calm approach:

“We are not going to have a shouting day today, so could you please brush your teeth like a good girl?”

I have tried threatening:

“That’s it, no soft play / television / play date etc. for you then!”

I have tried counting:

“I’m going to count to 3 and I’d like it if you could come here now… 1… 2…”

I have even tried racing:

“Who is going to get to the bathroom first?”

But sometimes, you’re just left with an unruly toddler that still won’t do what you want them to do.


And like wanting to sit in a dark room and scream.

So short of sneaking a hip flask of gin into your handbag to get through playgroup, bribing a toddler is sometimes the only option.

Ideas to bribe a toddler that won’t get you locked up

I’m not a fan of using ‘treats’ as bribes, because we all know that is only going to end up with the clever toddler working out that they will get rewarded for playing you up.

Therefore, here are some of the ideas I have used to coerce my toddler:

  • Days out. This needn’t be a lavish trip to Disneyland Paris. A picnic at the park i.e. eating a sandwich on a blanket and not having to clean the kitchen table, a visit to grandparents or cousins or even just a trip to the park. Obviously plan something that you don’t mind not doing either, or you’ll both end up being disappointed when you follow through.
  • An activity. Baking some cakes, painting a plant pot, making a card, reading a story etc. Something the child will be sad to not be able to do.
  • Stickers. Reward charts are a parent’s best friend. Kids love stickers, so if they does what they are told, they can have one. If they don’t, they are removed. Ouch – hit those toddlers where it hurts!
  • Tell their hero. This could be Daddy or a nursery key worker. Suggest to your child that you will tell their hero what a good girl / boy they have been, but likewise they’ll be disappointed if they hear of any silly behaviour.

And if all else fails…

Get The Magic Unicorn over. This is my latest idea. I told Lady P that if she went to bed without any silliness, and stayed there all night, I would phone the Magic Unicorn.

The Magic Unicorn is a girl (as my daughter is in a particularly girly phase), and will bring stickers for her to have in the morning, but she only comes when little girls are asleep.

Luckily, I am a designer and have lots of sticky labels lying around, so I knocked these bad boys up before I went to bed. Ignore the skewiff printing – it was late!

unicorn stickers

They worked a treat, and even if I did blow her mind that the Magic Unicorn trotted down our lane and dropped the stickers off for her, I’m going with it.

What’s your take on bribing toddlers? For or against? Share your tips with other parents!

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

(Visited 52 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

Notify of