When your toddler is crying and his face is turning red with frustration and anger because you won’t give him what he wants, it’s so tempting to give in. It’s even more tempting to bribe him with something that he wants just to get him to stop screaming.
I have watched mothers and fathers trying to talk their children out of their temper tantrums in a store because their parent won’t buy them something they want. If reasoning doesn’t do it and punishment doesn’t do it, they often resort to bribery.
“If you’re good, we’ll get some ice cream later. . . If you stop crying, you can watch your TV program. . . If you’re good, you can stay up later tonight.”
Children learn at a very young age how to manipulate their parents and I often see parents playing right into their hands. Sometimes I even think they learn how to make their parents give them what they want from the time they’re born.
Just look at a newborn crying until you change his diaper or until you feed him. He stops crying as soon as he gets what he wants. At the newborn age, his needs are physical, but as he gets older, his needs change to accommodate his years.
At a very young age, the bribe might be a candy bar or permission to watch a TV show, but as the child gets older, his demands get more costly and more unreasonable and you might not have the resources to fulfill your promises.
When a child is very young, it’s tempting to get him to do what you want by bribing him with something that he wants. But what if your child grows up thinking that he can get anything he wants and that he’s entitled to getting anything he wants? What if he becomes a bully? What if his bullying leads to extortion? What if his extortion leads him into the kinds of criminal acts that put him behind bars or leaves others with broken bodies or dead?
If you look at the larger picture, what seems easier to handle with bribery when he’s young, can become a nightmare when he is older. If you start this precedent during his childhood, you won’t have done anyone a favor with your weak and ineffectual parenting skills as he gets older.