To Bribe or Not To Bribe…

Like many of you, there have been some graduations in my family this year. Kid1 graduated from kindergarten and Kid2 graduated pre-school – all momentous accomplishments in their short lives.  One day before graduation hubby I asked each other, “do we buy our kids graduation presents?”

We both shrugged our shoulders and said to each other “it’s up to you!”  Like it or not, this is one area of parenting where I am constantly questioning myself. Philosophically I am committed to raising mature, kind, self-aware AND not spoiled children.  I feel as a whole, when any of us choose to be parents we pretty much universally agree that we all want our kids to turn out to be good ones.  But, and this is a big but, we all know kids and parents where that message has gotten lost or forgotten on the way.  So, kind reader, I pose the following question: “Does buying unnecessary presents help contribute to raising a spoiled kid?”

In the end, my husband and I decided not to buy our kids any graduation presents.  First of all, they didn’t need anything new, and secondly there really wasn’t anything either had wanted.  Philosophical debate ended.  On to the next impactful decision….or so I thought….

A few weeks later my daughter’s report card came.  Here we go again… “Do we reward good grades?”  And if so, with what?  A big hug?  A special dinner?  A toy?  Money?

In the end we showed our daughter her report card, explained why she should feel proud, and put the card into her ‘special book’.  I then started in with what quickly turned into a long winded (and probably not very helpful) explanation about modesty and bragging.  Who needs material presents when I can offer the gift of lengthy, uninteresting discussions on the right way to live!

And then, the ultimate gift-bribery test reared its ugly head once again – and this time it got the best of me.  Last weekend Kid2 ended up needing more blood drawn (for more info, see my previous blogs which all tend to have a mention of my family’s travails throughout “The Summer of Illness”).  My poor little guy has had so many tests, IV’s, and blood draws over the past few months that I am literally willing to buy a ticket to the moon if it means he feels more comfortable waiting for the dreaded needle.  Fortunately or unfortunately he knows this.  Once the blood was drawn, Kid2 was ready for his super gift.

This Week’s Bribe Item:
Kid2 is really into sports and we got him the NHL 2010 Panini Sticker and Album Gift Set, with ten packs of hockey stickers.  I feel I must first say I didn’t even know how great this gift was going to be before I gave it to him, but this kid is OBSESSED! The sticker book has numbers and your child needs to match up the numbers on the back of the stickers to the number in the book. Hello rote counting and fine motor skills coordination!  Not to mention the practice in reading all of the team and player names. Yahoo! Success for $10 plus shipping.

A Bribe by Any Other Name….:
Our kids’ school has an optional (but not optional for my kids) summer reading program. Each kid reads ten books at their level and does two projects based on the given theme. When they hand in their work, they get invited to a party at school in the fall (the bribe from the school). I told Kid1 that she needed to read the Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summerbook before I would take her to see the movie at the theater (the bribe from the Mom).  We zoom on over to the iPad open up the app that connects to our local library (BlueFire Reader – it’s awesomely amazing!), tap, tap, tap – Judy Moody is downloaded and read!

For Kid2 I found the beginner reader book called Ready For Kindergarten, Stinky Face?  It is a sequel to the board book I Love You Stinky Face, which was a favorite bed time story. When they say sequels are never as good as the original, don’t listen this one was. In this case school delivers the bribe not me. Success number 2!

So in the end it seems I am not so different than other parents (and apparently some schools) that I know.  I try to influence my children to do the right thing simply because it is the right thing.  I try to not make every accomplishment or life event include what comes to be an expected present.  I am, however, just a parent – and unfortunately we do have to fall back on a bribe every once in a while.  I do try to not make it a habit.  How do you reward? I am curious to know what other parents are doing!