I never thought I would be the parent who used bribes to get my kids to do things. I remember being in stores and hearing parents plead with their children, "Please just stop screaming and I'll buy you this cookie!", and thinking that would never, EVER be me. I was too tough for that. I wasn't going to bend and break down. If my child wanted to have a screaming temper tantrum on the floor of the store then he could just have it. I knew he'd stop having those tantrums once he realized Mommy wasn't going to give in.
Fast forward a few years and I have to admit that I was utterly and completely wrong. I work hard at disciplining my kids effectively and consistently, but I definitely do not win all the time. It's a lot easier at home when you don't have the eyes of others watching how you react when your 2-year-old emits a blood curdling scream while simultaneously writhing on the floor. I've tried the walking away tactic ... you know, just start walking away when they start a tantrum out in public. But inevitably the offender will then start screaming, "Mommy, don't LEAVE MEEEEEEEEE!", and I start to get worried that people think I am actually abandoning my child. How do they already know how to work a public place like this at so young an age? Some people have suggested that I just leave the store/public place (with the kids) if a tantrum occurs but do you know how long it takes to get me and four kids dressed, ready, into the car, and to the store? I am not about to give up all that work to just turn around and leave.
I've also tried bribery. I know, I know, something I never thought I would do. But many times it does work. I've learned that the key is to bribe BEFORE the tantrums / yelling / meltdowns ever even start. Preventative action. For example, if we're about to go into the grocery store I'll say, "OK, Mommy needs to get a few things from the grocery store and if you're really good and stay with me and don't yell or scream then we'll get a (wait for it) ...... COOKIE when we're done (it's more effective the longer the pause and the higher the eyebrow raise when exclaiming, "COOKIE!"). So we go into the store and the whole time we keep talking about how they're going to get that cookie if they stay with me and don't yell. If a tantrum creeps up, I just remind them about the cookie and all quiets down. And then, at the end of the gloriously easy and tear-free shopping trip, they get a cookie!
Sometimes I feel like a failure as a mother because I have to resort to these tactics (I swear it's not all the time ... they don't get cookies for brushing their teeth or going to the potty). But this stuff works for us right now so I'm going to use it. The key has been using things for bribery that I was already going to give them anyway. Like that cookie. They don't know that I was planning on getting them one anyway while we were at the store, but they don't need to know! Bribery with everyday things ... I love it! Now excuse me while I go and get the kids up from their naps ... I promised them that they could read their new library books if they would go and take a nap first!