A wise woman (and more experienced mother than I) once told me “there’s no harm in bribing your children.” I’m not sure I’m 100% on board with that theory, so instead of straight bribery, I try to justify it as an “earning system.” I don’t pay my children to keep their room clean. But I do allow them to earn stars for a clean room each night before they go to bed.

They’re just learning to count, so numbers are still somewhat arbitrary. I’ve promised them that once they earn 20 stars, they’ll earn a surprise. Here’s the dilemma …

The goal here is keep their room clean enough that I can actually identify which toys they play with on a regular basis, and which they’ve outgrown. It’s hard to tell when their floor is knee-deep with toys. So, as we prepare for the big pre-Christmas purge, I’m trying to get a read on the toys they actually enjoy.

The challenge is deciding what I should surprise them with when they earn the elusive star number 20? My initial thought was … a toy. On second thought, that seems a bit counter-productive. I also don’t want to reward them with sugary sweets, because let’s be honest … earning comfort food and treats as a reward for responsible behavior is somewhat less-than-responsible. (I speak from experience. I have what you might call a love-love relationship with chocolate. I love to eat it, and it loves to stay with me. Not a habit I want to foster in my children.)

The bigger challenge is how to entice them to keep up with the challenge after the first reward has been earned. Because, frankly, I really enjoy walking across their room with my feet touching the floor. What non-material reward would keep my children motivated enough to keep their room clean?

The obvious choice is just giving away all of their toys so there’s no challenge left to ponder. But that doesn’t exactly provide for the physical and cognitive development these toys have been so specifically engineered to promote (or at least well-marketed to promise).

Seriously. I have 17 more stars to come up with something really fabulous. Your ideas are welcome …


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8 Responses to Bribery

  1. Kymy says:

    What about the Zoo, Aquarium or Everett Children’s Museum? Great family activities that DON’T fill up the house :).

  2. Syd says:

    I’m with kymy – a visit to the zoo or a movie they would love to go see (something pixar has to be coming out soon – Tangled is having their wide release just before Thanksgiving. You could hold out for that and make a day of it for them as a treat?
    Morning: get the kids to help hand make your own snacks for the movie and package them up and then hit a matinee?

  3. Susan says:

    Special Day gets my vote.
    My mother died when I was 17. Since then, I have moved more than 20 times and divested most of my stuff. I don’t think I still have any object she gave me as a gift although I have things of hers which I’ve kept.
    The most precious gifts I have 25 years later, are the memories of time spent with her (just us two) doing spontaneous things, like the day she looked at me as I read Misty of Chincoteague and asked me, “Do want to go there? It’s only a few hours away.” We got in the car and spent a magical day together. That wasn’t easy for her with four other kids all much older than I, clamoring for attention.
    Christine, the best reward will be memories for them and stories for their children. Give them presence.

    • Susan, thank you for those encouraging words! I do value memories, and in my mind, making memories is more important than anything else. But then life gets busy and I realize that there are a lot of times that I am physically present, but not mentally and emotionally present. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Syd says:

      (That was my absolute favorite book as a kid.)

  4. Debbie says:

    Nothing beats special one on one time when you are fully enthralled with your children. My favourite childhod memories with my parents involve going to the beach with friends for a sausage sizzle, going bush for the day and maybe the cheesiest but one of my favourites, playing frisbee with my sister and BOTH parents!!! Getting gifts never springs to mind. Also my mum used a special reward system with me once when i was about 10 and had a set bedtime. If I got a certain amount of stars then i was able to choose one tv show to stay up past my bedtime to watch. I was like ‘hell yeah i’m a big girl now” haha

  5. Pingback: Bribery = Brilliant | The Minimal Challenge

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