If All Else Fails then Bribe Away

Yes. We’ve all been there and said it before we became parents. “We’ll never bribe our children.”

I’ve said it before as a teacher too. I’ll never bribe them. I’m going to make them see why they have to do things and get them to do it purely based on motivation and good values.

Yeah right!!

While I do attempt to do this, and a lot of the time I am successful, some of the time for the sake of my own sanity I have to resort to desperate measures. And those measures are

Bribe, bribe away!

I’ve really never been one for strict parenting rules. The old “never let your children sleep in your bed with you” did not work for me.


I’m going to pull her in with me for night time cuddles if it means I will get some sleep.

I’m not going to waste precious rare sleeping hours patting her back, going insane with controlled crying, or pacing the floor. Besides in a few years time she won’t even want me near her, gotta get as many nightime cuddles as possible.

Sometimes you gotta do whatever works.

Bribing your kids

Sleep time

For the past several months Kalyra has reverted back to baby state and won’t go to sleep unless you lie in bed with her. She’s gotten into bad habits created by us.

I have been going slightly crazy, especially with the thought lingering over my head that in a few months time, I will have a newborn baby who will have no idea how to sleep. (Ahem, excuse me Caroline, this one will be born knowing.  You are manifesting it remember)

I cannot have a newborn and a four year old needing me to help them sleep.

And so the retraining began. …

Leaving the room, ignoring the crying, coming back to check on her every five minutes, chats about needing to be a big girl now and how I need her to help teach her little sister how to sleep,  pat on the back, teddy bear to cuddle, come back to crying, talks again of how mummy and daddy really need her help to be a big girl and sleep on her own, leave the room again, crying, wailing…

I was being driven mad. All I could think about is the upcoming sleepless nights, and the mountain of work waiting for me to do during her sleep time. A sleeep that is taking hours to slip into.

After being stretched to the limit of nothing working, I resorted to the if-all-else-fails-then-bribe-away method.

“Honey, we really need you to be a big girl for Mummy and Daddy and sleep on your own. You did a great job of this last night and we were so proud of you. If you can do it again, Mummy and Daddy are going to get you a special treat. You have to keep doing it every night though.”

A slight nod of the head, her tears dried up, she hugged her little teddy and put on her determined brave face. I’m going to do this.

I gave her a kiss, told her how much I loved her, walked out and after a bit of quiet play in her room she finally, quietly went to sleep on her own.

And I quietly prayed she would forget my promised bribe.

In the morning, I woke her up to get ready for our mummy daughter day at the ice-skating rink. I picked her up for a good morning cuddle and she said,

“Mummy, after breakfast I’m gong to have my special treat. I want some ice-cream.

“Excuse me, honey. What do you mean?”

“Last night, you said to me, If I be a big girl and sleep on my own you would give me a special treat, and I was a big girl and did sleep on my own.”


“You did and I am so proud of you! Look at what a big girl you are. But you have to do it every night and you can’t have ice cream this early in the morning. Mummy will get you a special treat after lunch. What about a colouring in book? Wouldn’t you like that more?”

“No. I want ice-cream.”

On the way to the station she exclaimed so proudly to her father,

“Daddy, I am such a big girl. I am going to help teach my baby sister how to sleep.”

Scoffs of laughter from Craig, “Are you darling? I’d like to see that one.”

“Yes and you and  Mummy are going to give me special treats.”

Crap. (Flashbacks to me telling Craig only a few days ago not to bribe her with treats at the shop if she would just stop rolling around the floor screaming and come for a walk with us.)

Tonight, there was no crying or wailing. Kalyra grabbed her teddy for a cuddle, gave me the knowing nod after story time, let me give her a kiss and a cuddle and walk out of the room.

There was no playing, no fuss and she went straight to sleep.

It was heaven. I can’t wait for what special treat she’ll ask me for tomorrow.

But, if I get a peaceful entry to sleep like this every night then I’ll buy her the whole goddamn ice cream shop.

I don’t care. Whatever works.

I’m just hoping the special treat novelty will soon wear off and be forgotten about and I’ll be left with a big girl who can sleep on her own and teach her baby sister to do the same.

Your Turn to Share Tips:

What makes you resort to the if all else fails bribe away parenting strategy? Or have you stuck to your pre-parent promises and never bribe?

posted in: Parenting
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  • A Cajun Down Under

    It was lovely to meet you and Kalyra at the ice rink! This post is very timely for me. We have the same problem with our 4 year old. It was taking me hours of in and out of her room to get her to sleep then she was up again in the night. I have started laying down with her till she goes to sleep because it is quicker for me, but she still wakes in the night. So, I too have resorted to bribery. I have tied her going to sleep and sleeping all night to her allowance. Basically, I am paying her to sleep and therefore let me sleep. She gets a 40 cents (2 20 cent coins – 1 for pocket money and 1 for savings) in the morning when she sleeps all night. No sleep = no money. Last week she took her pocket money to the shops and bought some play-doh. She is still waking sometimes, but overall it is working. And, it is cheaper than ice cream.


    • Caz

      I love it!!! That is so great. I might switch to the money bribe now. She is saving to go to Disneyland, (a big goal that one) so this will be perfect. I hate giving her sweets so this will take away my guilt associated with that. And it is teaching her that sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do to get the money you need to do things you do. Brilliant. Thansk for sharing Christy!


  • Mrs M

    There’s such a fine line between rewarding and bribing anyway. I’m like you; you do what you got to do to get through the day. More times than most, things just have a way of working out.

    Love & stuff
    Mrs M


    • Caz

      I think I might switch my thinking and see it as more rewarding than bribing!!


  • Marina

    Caz – the delayed gratification of bribery works as you gave Kalyra (gorgeous name) something to focus on. Some kids have ideas – which can be worries, distractions, monsters etc rolling around in their heads and prevents them from going to sleep.
    By talking about the day for a few minutes at the end of the day snuggled up in bed – gives the kids the chance to unload (like we do with a friend and a glass of wine – but without the wine) – then suggest something that will be happening the next day – if this becomes a routine – you will give them a skill to take into adult life, I’ve shared this with adult friends having problems with sleep and it worked on them too! Kids are great – if nothing else works, food is often an easy focus.
    My five year old was distraught on Sat night, I was out and the babysitter couldn’t bring her down. We talked – she told me everything that was wrong in her world – then I tried to talk about what was going on the next day – let’s go to the dog beach (No, I just want you home mum), plant the daisies (No), sew a dress (NO), what would you like for breakfast, Bacon and Eggs – you can help me make them (NO – I want to make choc chip pancakes!) OK – that’s what we’ll do and you can even learn to flip them.
    That was it – she was asleep in less than 4 minutes!

    It is a great idea to exchange Bribery for Reward – but if you can link it to experiences and cost free ones, all the better for everyone.
    Caz – I’ve loved reading your posts and I’m off to discover the podcasts 🙂


    • Caz

      wow this is really cool advice!! I can see how this works well. Kalyra is always asking me what is happening tomorrow so I can see how it is a great way to help her sleep. Thanks so much and thanks for enjoying my blog.


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