This week, Candis editor Flic Everett takes a look at whether bribery is ever a good idea…
When my son was little, I tried very hard not to give in to bribery, on the basis that it was morally corrupting, he should learn to behave well without incentives like toys and sweets, and most importantly, I couldn’t afford the amount it would cost to keep him suspended in a permanent state of good behaviour, like a fish in a sparkling tank. That lasted till our first trip to the supermarket, when I let him post loose mushrooms into a paper bag. It went brilliantly, till my need for more mushrooms came to an end, and I gently took it away, triggering a fit of passionate howling and despair.
It was only alleviated by me snatching a pot of fromage frais from the shelf and thrusting it at him, which had an instant calming effect.
That was when I realised bribery and parenthood are inextricably entwined, and often it’s only the promise of something wonderful – “be good at the dentist and you can have the Barbie stickers on the way back…” that gets you through a potentially horrific situation.
Even now he’s grown up, I still find myself saying, “I’ll give you a tenner for the pub if you wash up first.” I’m sure it’s not healthy parenting, and really, children should be motivated through the sheer joy of duty to their elders. But outside of an orphanage in 1863, I suspect that’s unlikely. Everyone I know bribes their kids. In fact, some even bribe their husbands, dangling a promise of, say, going to football with the boys, as long as they’ll slog round the 9,265 room sets of IKEA on a Saturday morning first.
I have even bribed my friends to accompany me to potentially grim networking evenings with the promise of free wine, and begged for favours in return for cooking them dinner.
Bribery seems to me to be an ancient and successful method of exchange, based entirely on how human nature works. Yes, you could end up with spoilt children, assuming it’s their birthright to have a new Xbox game every time they say ‘thank you’ to a grown-up. Then again, that comes down to the common sense of the parent – and not letting one year olds bag up mushrooms.
Our debate in the July issue of Candis looks at whether you should bribe your kids or not. Subscribe here to get your copy https://www.candis.co.uk/shop/