When it comes to getting what I want from my kids, I’m a firm believer in bribery. And since I just read an article in Parents magazine advocating it as an acceptable method of preventing tantrums, I now feel relieved to do it guilt-free. Maybe I’ll even use it more freely now that it’s condoned by experts.
My daughter was close to giving up naps when she turned three. There were two problems with this notion. One was that I had the baby napping at the same time, and I really, really wanted both kids to nap together so I could have a quiet hour to myself each afternoon. The second problem was she was an absolute nightmare to deal with if she skipped her nap.
After weeks of pointless negotiations, giving her special sheets, a favorite toy to sleep with, locking her in her room with a child gate, moving nap time up and back, and all of these approaches failing miserably, I realized that she’d developed a sweet tooth, and an obsession with Dum-Dum lollipops. I bought a big bag of them, set them high on a shelf in our family room (in plain view, but unreachable to her), and told her, “If you nap today, you can have a lollipop as a reward.” She slept for an hour and a half that day, and as she appeared at the bottom of the stairs, hair damp with sweat, face lined with wrinkles from her pillow case, sleepy eyes squinting in the sunlight, she pointed hopefully at the bag of treats and asked if she could have one. She got two, and we were on a roll.
Now both of my children wake from naps and promptly say, “Mommy, I napped. Can I have candy?” It’s the only time they get candy, and until reading that Parents article, I wondered if I was setting a bad precedent by rewarding them with food for sleeping. I secretly thought it was a great idea, not only because it worked as bribery (having the ability to go back into a non-napping kid’s room and say, “You can get up now, and not have candy, or you can go to sleep, and have candy” has a remarkable effect on my girls, especially because each one worries the other will get candy and she won’t), but also because the small dose of sugar seems to get their blood sugar back up quickly, getting the cranky post-nap phase over with faster. Chase it with a full cup of milk (protein, to keep the blood sugar at a good level after the sugar crash), and they are happy campers for the evening hours. Now, what’s an acceptable bribe for going all day without bickering with your sister?