If you are a parent, you might have heard your friend say something like, “I had to resort to bribery to get Sarah to eat her peas last night!” You might have even been the one to utter that sentence. But if you go online or open any parenting magazine, you will likely read experts telling you that bribery is NOT the way to go. I don’t always agree with the “experts,” but I am going to side with them on this.
As someone that deals with small humans on a daily basis, I have found that when we use bribery to get kids to eat, we fall victim to one of the classic blunders - the most famous of which is "never get involved in a land war in Asia" - but only slightly less well-known is this: Don’t start a habit that you don’t plan to continue for a long period of time. (Sorry. I couldn’t help myself. I felt inspired by one of the best movies of all time- The Princess Bride. But I digress…)
Don’t want them to throw their socks on the floor the second they come in the house? Make them pick them up. Every time. Don’t want them to get up and walk away from the table while others are still eating? Don’t allow them to do it on a regular basis. Bad habits have a way of forming far too easily. (I know. If only the good habits would take as quickly.)
If you don’t want every meal to become a game/struggle/over-the-top performance, then don’t even go down that road. If you use bribery to get a child to eat, it is rarely “just one time.” More often than not, it will become something that your child will come to count on. That is not healthy for them, and it is exhausting for you. (And I am on your side! We don’t need anything else that will exhaust us further!)
Be honest. Have you ever found bribery to be an effective tool for long term results? Short term? Possible. Long term? If you say yes, I will have to call you out and say you are lying- or delusional. And that is why it is a bad idea to use bribery to get children to eat.
Healthy eating habits should be a long term goal – not a hurdle to jump over one time. If you introduce bribery to your child as a means to get them to eat cauliflower (or whatever… sometimes it is used in an attempt to get them to eat anything) prepare yourself to use bribery as your “go-to” tool at the dinner table. I don’t know any parent that has the stamina to endure that kind of a battle long term.