Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bribery--A Mother's Best Friend (And speaking of prizes.....)

It seems to me that an awful lot of parenting advice revolves around giving kids "rewards" for doing good things.  Now, I don't know if I agree with this in general, since it seems certain expectations ought to be met without bribes, but, when it comes to doing extra chores, bribery works really, really well!  Last night, for example, I wanted help getting the house cleaned up.  Really, I wanted to hire someone to come and make the mess all go away, but that wouldn't be very thrifty of me.  So, instead, I recruited my 6 year old to do it.  He didn't make most of the mess, since he just got back from staying with his grandma for almost a week (another plus of homeschooling!), but he still did most of the cleaning.  Now, that may seem cruel to some, but I made him want to do it!  How?  Bribes, of course.
It's never too early to get the kids involved with cleaning!

Some advice I've seen centers on giving an allowance or earning points toward some big prize, but, to be frank, I can't afford either of those.  I've tried, but on weeks that you can't even afford to buy a gallon of milk, how are you going to squeeze in even a meager allowance?  And, once you start something like that, it isn't really fair just to stop it.  With the lack of funds that abounds here, I've come up with a number of other cheap "prizes" that seem to work well.  Some of the ones that I've used recently with good results include:
  • A random prize drawn from a bag of prizes that I have lying around that I add a little to when I do have the funds or find a really great deal on something the kids would like.  Usually, these prizes are about 10 cents each, but they seem to like them.
  • Something silly, like ice cream for breakfast.  They'd probably get the ice cream at some point anyway, but this way it is extra special.  And I'm actually hoping that frozen strawberries blended with homemade yogurt will pass as ice cream so it isn't nearly as bad as it sounds.
  • Extra television shows.   I allow each child (except the toddler) 3 shows a day, with one being taken away for each hour past their bedtime that they aren't settled down and at least making a good faith effort to go to sleep.  For our cleaning game tonight, I put anywhere from 1 extra show to unlimited shows for a day in the mix for a bribe.
  • Staying up late.  A delayed bedtime is a popular prize with the kids, but I don't give out a lot of these, because I need my "me-time!"  And, if the kids weren't being homeschooled, this would have to be limited to a weekend prize.
  • Getting to pick dinner.  My two oldest kids are my two pickiest eaters, so this works well as a prize, since then they know they'll get something they like!
  • A trip someplace free.  This one doesn't so much work this time of the year, since most of the free places like the park for a picnic or to the zoo (we have a membership) are too dang cold to enjoy.  But a trip to the museum (also have a membership) also can work, if we haven't been in a while.
  • Another special food treat.  Sometimes, I'll make the winner's favorite cookies as a prize.
How the prizes are decided on or distributed varies too, since sometimes one works better than another, depending on the children's moods and my own.  Last night, I wrote the prizes on slips of paper and the kids were allowed a draw from the prize bowl every time a room was cleaned.  Other times, it is picking up a certain number of things off the floor, or having a certain amount done by a certain time that will win prizes.

I hate cleaning so much and the kids aren't fond of either of course, this is just one way that we can try to make it more of a game and less of a chore.  How about you?  Do you have any bribes you use with your kids to get them to do things?  Or, if you don't have kids, did your parents bribe you to help out around the house?
And speaking of bribes, er, I mean prizes, we have a WINNER for the first giveaway of this blog!  Congratulations to Tywonna!  She has been contacted to arrange receipt of her books.  Don't worry, everyone else.  I'll be having another giveaway sometime in the next few weeks, so you'll have more chances to win.  In the meantime, be sure to tell your friends to "like" the Facebook page and follow this blog, so they don't miss out on any of the thrifty fun!

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