Posted by: Hannah | 02/04/2013

in which I resort to bribery

Harry and Ron share a bedroom, for now.

It’s the smallest bedroom in the house, which is stupid, I know. The reasons for why that happened are silly and kind of boring, but suffice it to say we have been talking about switching their room with George’s for months now, but it just never happens. It’s a day-long commitment and every time I think about moving the bunk beds, I feel ill.

So there they are, my mercifully-very-compatible older boys, stuffed into a small room with all their Legos and action figures.

Not surprisingly, it gets messy. I’ve given them every organizational tool imaginable to keep things tidy. I’ve decluttered rigorously so they don’t need to find as many places for things. I remind them every day to put away the day’s toys. I cajole them to walk across the hall to put their laundry in the hamper.

Still, by Saturday morning it was a catastrophe. Again. The floor was covered with Lego, dirty clothes, books, papers. Nothing was where it belonged. Every dresser in Harry’s bureau was open. All of Ron’s bedding was on the floor – he likes to rip the sheet and comforter off and throw them on the floor, for some reason we’ve never been able to determine.

They haven’t received their allowance in a couple of months, because it’s contingent on them having a clean room on Inspection Day. With Christmas, they got enough new toys and things that there isn’t anything in particular they’re saving up for, so the promise of money/gratification later wasn’t cutting it.

It was just one more battle, and if I never had to go in their room I wouldn’t bother fighting it. But I was stepping on Lego every night when I tucked Ron into bed, and Harry was complaining that he had no socks or pants for school even though all the laundry in the hamper was done.

I was bracing myself for the fight when I spotted this little guy on Saturday afternoon:



His name is “Eruptor” and he is one of the Skylanders characters for the phenomenally popular game series for the Nintendo Wii. My kids are big into the games and collecting the (45 and counting!) different playable characters that go with them. At a cost of $12 apiece, or just a dollar more than their combined weekly allowance.

The store had one in stock. They’ve been wanting this particular character for a really long time. We’ve learned the hard way that if you see one you want, grab it, because there are actually adults out there who collect these damn things and then resell them on eBay or Kijiji at far beyond retail. Because some people are jerks.


I bought it. I brought it home. I let them look at the package and ooh and ahh. I gave them the scent.

Then I put it on top of the fridge and said they could have it when their room was clean. Really clean.

Guys, they busted ass. They worked on it for three hours on Saturday. Then they got up early Sunday morning (!!) to finish. They didn’t bicker, fight, or argue. They threw out garbage, stacked books, dealt with laundry. By the time they pronounced it ready for me to see it, I was amazed. You could eat off the floor.

So they earned their plastic thing, I can look at a clean room, plus they had a new toy to help them through the boredom of a cold, blustery snow day.

Did I bribe my kids? Yes I did.

It was totally worth it.



  1. HA HA HA… this smells like a victory!

    • Now I just need to lay in a supply of the damnable things.

  2. Not a bribe. Payment. Would you look after 5 strange children for free? Nope. But your pay at the end of the month isn’t a bribe.they were getting paid to do a distasteful job and the pay was worth it. 🙂

    • I like the way you think.

  3. Do you have “keeping the room clean” as a condition for keeping the toy? There’s nothing wrong with a little bribery now and then!

    • Oooh, now that is hardcore. So far, it looks pretty good… they’ve both agreed that they like having a clean room to play in. Mind you, I’ve heard that before, and it always goes to hell within a week.

  4. Ha! Love it!

  5. I call that sufficient motivation and positive reinforcement. When I talk to dog owners, they often really on “should”. My dog SHOULD wait before darting out the door. My dog SHOULDwk nicely next to me. My dog SHOULD be quiet when left alone all day. T them I say “why should he? What’s in It for him?”

    You identified that the allowance wasn’t a big enough motivator so you uped the ante. You went from calling your dog with kibble in your pocket to calling the dog while holding a hot dog. And it worked. Good for you!

    • Heh, hot dog.

      George has started calling the dog now – he pats his leg and makes a clicking sound with his tongue. He also likes to cuddle in the dog bed with Salty, and this morning at 6:30AM his first conscious thought was to drag me to the kitchen so I’d feed his new best friend. It’s the cutest thing EVER.

  6. Oh my god, that is FREAKING ADORABLE. I can’t get used to him being called George, though – I keep thinking “who the heck is George? Oh, right”. And I’m a big proponent of parental bribery. Do you watch Parenthood? I can get Angus to do almost anything with Skittles. There’s a bag of skittles sitting on the counter to decorate the cake I have to make for the effing school cake raffle, and it’s damned near kiling him.

  7. Killing. Killing him. Leaving comments with typos damned near kills me.

  8. I bribe mine all the time. They don’t get an allowance, they get “if you help with X, you might get some cash.” Since the allowance idea totally didn’t work. Whereas handing them a loonie or twoonie after helping with dishes and cleaning their room? TOTALLY helps. I’m bribed to work by payday. I’m thinking a Skylander would work for the room cleaning this weekend tho 😀

    • Michael’s cousin & her husband use a “pay as you go” system, where each child-appropriate chore (like taking out the garbage or unloading the dishwasher) has a value attached to it, ranging from 25 cents to a couple of dollars. Then at the end of the week it’s tallied up and each kid gets what they earned. Apparently the kids fight over who GETS to do the chores. Mwah ha ha.

  9. I saw a talk show once where someone recommended taking everything that wasn’t cleaned up and putting it all where the kids couldn’t get to it. And then after that, every evening that everything was cleaned up, the kids could earn back 1 toy of their choosing. And if there was an evening when stuff was left out, everything that was left out went into quarantine again.

    I don’t have kids, but I’m remembering it for when I do. It’s consequence and reward all in one. Plus when they do well, they’re not getting something new that will add to the clutter– they’re just getting something back that they already had.

    • I have done that, but it punishes the parents, too. Because let me tell you, when they have no toys, they will make your life a living hell because they’re bored. 🙂

      I take certain toys away in specific circumstances, but the wholesale stripping-of-the-room is kind of extreme for my tastes (and my boys’ overall behaviour, which is really very good).

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