How To Get Kids To Do What You Want

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How To Get Kids To Do What You Want

Bribes. That’s the only thing I have to offer. Bribes.

But not just any bribe, the right kind of bribe.

So, here’s what I can tell you. I can tell you that we as humans love rewards. We love feeling like we’ve done a good job at something, and we get those acts and words of affirmation in many forms. We all need it – adults and children alike – so it isn’t surprising that bribes work.

I can also tell you that the type of bribe is extremely important, so if you aren’t tuned into what your kids love (or coworkers or others in your life), your words of affirmation will fall on deaf ears. As I told a client recently who felt like he was affirming his wife for all the things she was doing as a stay at home mom, “She doesn’t understand French.” (Except I used a curse word to drive home the point. It just felt right at the time.) Because, when you speak a language only you understand, other’s can’t hear you. Affirmations have to be what the recipient understands. So, types of bribes really matter.

And one other thing before I get into what bribe worked for me. I’m not necessarily a fan of making your kids slaves to your wants and needs. I get that the title of this article implies that, that you can use bribery to coax your children into becoming little robots, answering to your every demand. I am a fan of letting kids become who are they are naturally supposed to be, and parenting to who they are, and not who I have in my mind I’d like them to be. I try to reserve judgment about who they are, and watch them naturally become. But alas, I need a way to get them to brush their teeth. And do their homework. And practice their piano lesson. So, bribery.

My twin daughters are in 4th grade. Their school uses what they call “Bengal Bucks” (bengal is the school’s mascot) when they catch the kids really stepping out and doing something awesome. If they read more than their recommended amount, turn in an assignment early, or go out on a limb for another kid for example. Once or twice per month (I can’t say I’m really that involved with the process), the kids get to go to the Bengal Bucks Store and cash in their bucks. Genius!

It’s genius because my kids love those Bengal Bucks. They are the kids who do things on time, all the time, without a fuss. They go above and beyond, and they always follow the rules. Partly, this is just the kids they are. They’re good kids. But the other aspect is, they depend on those Bucks because they want to cash them in at the store. The store has all types of dollar store items that I don’t need filling my home. (They always end up in the trash, don’t they? And then I have to feel guilty for more plastic being pumped into the environment. Ugh.) The point is, those Bengal Bucks work.

So you know where this is going, right?

Mamma Bucks!

The first week of school this year was hard. The morning wasn’t smooth, and there was already yelling and complaining and “I can’t find anything to wear” on the first day of school. Even with a closet full of organized, color-coded clothes. Some were even new. I can’t even get started on that one.

But what I realized is that I didn’t want to be a yelly, stressed-out mom. I wanted to be a joyous, loving, happy mom. Especially in the morning. I mean, this sets the tone for the whole day, right? So I needed a tool…quick.

I created a checklist for my kids so they knew exactly what to do at each turn of the day, but that still wasn’t moving them along fast enough. This may seem like a bad idea because we need to foster independent thinking, but they’re 9. Let’s face it, they still need prodding. The school year, as we know, moves fast and furious and we have a teensy amount of time to get a gargantuan amount of things done. It has to run like a fine-oiled machine. And so, Mamma Bucks!

Here are some photos:

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These are the actual Bucks. I printed these from my computer, then laminated them. I printed a LOT because it turned out that my girls have been on fire getting their responsibilities done around the home.

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These are the items I purchased for our Mamma Bucks Store. I bought things I knew they’d love. And I needed a range of items to bribe my older twins and my younger four year old as well. I put stickers with amounts on each item, and told my daughters the store is open on Fridays only. The first store they had, they loved. I mean like, really loved. They said, “Mom, the Mamma Bucks is the funnest thing you’ve ever done.” Win! (Sidenote: I let my four year old go to the store every other day because her attention span isn’t going to last a whole week).

You can see that I have a little card in the store that lists out things my girls really would like. They’ve since asked me to add things to the store for them to work for. And of course I absolutely have because it’s way better than my kids thinking they can have anything thing they want at any time, without working for it. Lily wanted a rainbow loom, and Ayla wanted eraser clay to make her own erasers. I mean, not horrible, right? Not big item things. And I will put an amount on it so that they have to ean the prize.

One thing I didn’t think about is something Lily pointed out. She said didn’t want to earn time with me. She really loves her one-on-0ne time with Mom, and hey, I get it. I love it, too. I told her we will continue our Mom-Dates (breakfast out in the morning, random lunch on a Saturday, even a zoo trip), and the bucks would be even more time she’d get to spend with Mom. She really liked this idea. (They aren’t teenagers yet, I’ll take any time they ask for now!)

So, Mamma Bucks work. I keep them hidden in a drawer and dole them out when they take care of their responsibilities without much or any prodding. I want them to be forward-thinkers, and responsible. When they are, I am less stressed, too, and the house runs much more smoothly. I’ve given out bucks for being on time to leave in the morning (by the way, we’ve been on time every single morning since Mamma Bucks came into play), for getting their daily to-do list complete (brushing teeth, picking out clothes for the next day, completing homework, practicing piano, etc.), and for doing extra chores around the house when asked and even when not asked (like unloading the dishwasher, vacuuming, and putting laundry away). And, I love catching them doing extra special things like loving on their little sister.

Mamma Bucks is working for us! Yes, bribery works. Maybe you’ll try it and it will work for you, too. Because we could all use a little more peace and calm in our lives, right?

Good luck!

About the Author:

Jennifer Slingerland Ryan knows a thing or two about kids and families. First, she knows they are joyous, exhilarating, loving and so darn fun. Second, she knows they suck your life dry and make you weep like a baby. By day she’s a psychotherapist; by night she’s a mom and wife. She claims to love therapizing couples, educating parents, reading dystopian fiction and sleeping in her free time (read: she never sleeps). Jennifer has spent over 12 years in private practice working with individuals, couples, and parents who are faced with kid-drama, mamma-drama, and family-drama, and she claims that although some stories make a grown woman cry, she loves it.

One Comment

  1. Dermot May 23, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    That’s a great idea! I think it’s good to teach kids at an early age that work brings rewards. In most households the only reward for putting on your shoes in under 15 minutes is a brief cessation of Mom or Dad’s threats and yells 🙂 I’ll definitely be trying this.

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