Is bribing my kid okay?

Envelope full of cash

Will offering your child a bribe encourage them to be truthful?

By Pam Hardy
Hyde School Parenting Coach

Recently I met a friend for coffee; she’s a grandmother, like I, but she is much more involved in her grandchildren’s lives than I am. I admire her for her energy and her untiring devotion and support of them. They are lucky to have her in their corner.

We began talking about things she’s concerned about for them. The oldest is going to be in middle school next year, and she’s read recently that’s the age when kids often start to experiment with alcohol. “I’m going to tell him I’ll give him $1,000 if he won’t drink until he’s of age.”

At first I didn’t say anything; then she asked me what I thought about that.

I have to admit I tried things like this with my kids, too: “If you bring that C up to a B next grading period, I’ll buy you that skate board you want. If you bring it up to an A, I’ll buy you… (something more expensive than the skateboard).” It hardly ever worked.

The problem with bribing a kid not to drink, or smoke pot, or whatever it is we’re trying to keep them away from, is that we set up the possibility of moving truth out of the center of the relationship. If he/she can’t stick to the promise, then it’s unlikely they will tell you of their failure because they don’t want to lose the money! The truth would set them free – of their guilt and the money. It’s as if there’s too much at stake to bet on the truth.

I suggested to my friend that she talk to her grandchild about her concern with underage drinking.

“Tell him what you were planning to do, and the bind you realized you’d be putting him in by doing this. Ask him if, when and if he gets into a situation where he might drink or feels like he wants to try it, would he speak with you first, so you can give him your views and advice. That way, he has you as a resource for important and possibly life-changing decisions, rather than as the ‘policeman’ of right and wrong.”

Bribing our kids makes them accountable to us; we want to raise them to live by their own conscience, and to be accountable to life.

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