Simple Bribery

Updated on January 24, 2011
K.H. asks from Lynchburg, VA
22 answers

My almost 5 year old son was in the hospital last month. We thought he may have had appendicitis. Come to find out he has colon problems. Last year I had taken him to his ped, I was concerned that he was only having a b.m. every 6 or 7 days. Her answer was that as long as his tummy doesnt hurt, and his b.m. isnt painful, she was not concerned. Obviously it did become a big concern. My son has always been food-phobic, and would cry at new foods. After the hospital, we did a complete over-haul of his diet. So here is the question: what do you think about bribery to get him to eat? The other night he had lima beans on his plate and he was trying to cry about it. I offered him 50 cents just to try it and he discovered that he liked it! This morning it was cheezy scrambled eggs, and another 50 cents. this is not an every meal thing, and most often he leaves the money laying around, or if we go to the convenience store, he puts it in a machine, for a ball or gum. Am I starting a new bad habit? BTW he now has a b.m. every day, thanks to much better eating habits!

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So What Happened?

Thank you all! I think I will be checking into any further gastrointestinal problems with a pediatric GI Doc. He has had constipation problems, literally since day 1. Karo syrup in a bottle didn't even work. I think I will go research Ciliac Disease, and other tummy issues. Seems to me like us moms are out childs best health advocate!

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answers from New York on

Way to go mom!! 50cents to try new food! BM every day!! Keep up the good work after all we can be talked into that gumball for nothing anyway.Def worth 50 cents.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Odessa on

I don't see a problem with it as long as it's paid for the first time he tries something...and not everytime he eats lima beans, for example. He is 5 and it is working. Pretty soon, he is gonna run out of new things to try...

you could also do a sticker chart maybe...starting small...and everytime he tries something new he gets a sticker. After so many stickers (like 10 maybe?) he gets a treat of some sort.

I don't think you would create a this age, getting 50 cents or getting a sticker on a chart are fairly interchangeable...all he sees is an immediate reward.

Same idea, just utilized differently.

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answers from San Francisco on

I think bribery is the best parenting technique ever. Go for it. And you can moderate it as needed so you won't create a monster.

For anyone who decries this technique: how many of you go to your jobs every day to get MONEY? Enough said.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

You don't want to do it so much that he thinks he's entitled to fifty cents whenever he does what you what!

But apparently it's working right now in the food department. One noticeable thing it's doing is changing his attitude, which is crucial. If he goes from crying to interest, that's quite an accomplishment.

You may want to "graduate" him to stickers, as has been suggested, when he really gets the idea that it's rewarding - in more ways than one - for him to try new foods. And it'll keep you from having to scrounge up quarters.

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answers from Detroit on

If it gets him to try something, and then he realizes he likes it, and doesn't need the bribe anymore - and he is healthier for it - go for it. Whatever works for you should be fine. Our DD has gotten a bit more picky as she has hit 3. At 2, she would devour grilled salmon, now she won't touch it. She's not crazy about most meats, except hamburger or breakfast sausage. Sometimes she eats veggies, sometimes not. Interestingly, some of the foods that are favorites of picky eaters (mac and cheese, fries), she's not crazy about either. Oftentimes, she has started turning her nose up at dinner, even relatively kid-friendly stuff like spaghetti, but then she wants a dessert. And I tell her, you need to eat 3 bites of everything before you get any dessert (which is usually something as small as a mini Reece's PB cup). So more often than not, she will follow through. Sometimes she will eat more if she sits on my lap and I share some of my dinner (even though she has the exact same stuff on her plate). They say you may have to expose a child to a food 10 or 15 or 20 times before they accept it, so even if it takes a small incentive to get them to try something, I am hoping it will help DD keep eating healthy down the road.

Hopefully though, he does not start expecting money every time for everything you want him to do. One idea I heard some place else was to make a chart that shows the new foods that he has tried and to put a stick by each one each time he eats it.

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answers from Modesto on

whatever works, just dont up the ante and go broke :)

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answers from Boston on

It's not bribery. :) Bribery is paying someone for doing something wrong or secretive. This is rewarding. Having said that, only do this as long as it's a positive game. We ususally discourage rewards or punishments for eating because that can lead to food disorders and power plays eventually. Try allowing non-restaurant behaviors for new foods. We encouraged sniffing, licking, taking the smallest bites absolutely possible, and spitting out into napkins if the taste or texture wasn't pleasant. Overall kids took lots of risks because they didn't feel forced, could stop when they wanted to, enjoyed watching us model tiny-tiny funny little bites, and were praised for trying any new food, not for eventually liking it. Oh, and I'd suggest you try this at lunch only, when there's not a family audience. Dinner was more for food and conversation, not experimentation. Best of luck.

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answers from Seattle on

Bribery gets a bad rap.

Even as an adult I am FAR more likely to do something for a reward than I am to avoid punishment. And isn't it better for bravery to be rewarded?

That's actually my yardstick. I reward for great acts of bravery, and randomly for being a decent human being. Those rewards vary in form; from giant lit eyed smiles, to hugs/kisses/high fives, to a coveted trip/toy/card/time.

It may not SEEM like a great act of bravery to try a new food... but the definition of bravery is to do something that you are afraid of doing. Your kiddo is AFRAID of trying new foods. Each and every single time he overcomes that fear, for whatever reason, he is being very brave. Which in and of itself is a great behavioral pattern to teach... bravery in the face of fear. Whether it's a new food, new school, getting "back on the horse"... teaching that he can be afraid but overcome it... it's fantastic.

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answers from Washington DC on


If it works for you - GO FOR IT!!!

I'm not sure if I would call it BRIBERY as much as I would call it "NEGOTIATIONS"...I'm not sure if I would've taken 50 cents to eat Lima Beans - maybe $1.50!! (LOL!!)

I'm sorry your son is having problems. Did they diagnose (that looks wrong!) with Celiac disease?

Hope he's better soon!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

when dealing with medical issues, I say "whatever works best for you & your family".

The End!

Whoooops, one more thought: after he becomes adept at trying new foods, you might flip the bribe.....into I will pay you $2 a week if you eat like a big boy! Use a chart to encourage his participation & eventually, it will become 2nd nature.

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answers from Dallas on

Good problem solving! I hope he continues with the better eating habits. The other moms here have given some great suggestions, too. You're doing a great job helping your son.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cumberland on

You've got to do what you've got to do! Try not upping the ante all the way to a dollar, though, when $.50 just is no longer enough!



answers from Houston on

I would use stickers instead after so many sticker a treat like going out for his favorite eat out resturantor ice cream or such but once every 2 weeks or so. otherwise your going to create a monster



answers from Richmond on

if it gets the kid to eat, and keeps him out of the hospital, why not
K. h.



answers from Pittsburgh on

There are some studies looking at this issue. In the long term kids tend to like foods they are rewarded to try less over time.



answers from Washington DC on

The first thing I have to say is I hope you have another pediatrician! I can't believe that a doctor would say that it's not a concern that your son was only having about 1 BM a week! That's ridiculous! Even a layman knows better. You're supposed to have as many eliminations a day as you have full meals. That goes for children too.

I'm very happy for you that things have turned around for you with your son's diet. I remember when I thought there was a time when my now almost 4.5 yr-old wouldn't eat much besides baby food & fruits. Whenever I'd sit him down to eat dinner, there was ALWAYS a battle. Heck, he was still having 2-hr dinners about a year ago. But after sticking with preparing him the same foods as everyone else was eating, and getting him to try some new things (by coaxing it onto a plate with one of his favorites, say sweet potatoes), he's such a better eater now.

I think you're doing very good in helping him to vary his diet and try new things. And if it's bribery, oh well. Hmmm, come to think of it, I must bribe my son at least once a day for something. I mean, who's pre-schooler does things just because they've been asked or told!

I hope that things continue to go well for you all.


answers from Cincinnati on

Whatever gets you through the day. I a pro-bribery as long as it doesn't move into spoiled where he refuses to listen to you unless you pay him off. Fine line there. Good luck & I'm glad your lil man is doing better!



answers from Washington DC on

I have to chime in! Coming from a mom whose daughter had major issues with constipation and withholding, I say do what you gotta do!! It's so hard to watch your kid go through this, and I think all moms will do whatever it takes to fix the problem. I love how some mom call it "negotiations" in stead of bribery. You know, my daughter hasn't had problems going to the bathroom in years, but she still isn't very receptive to trying new foods. There are so many foods I think she'd like if she'd only TRY them. Maybe I need to start some negotiations :)



answers from Washington DC on

As a holistic health practitioner and also a doula, this is a somewhat familiar topic. Many/most doctors do not have to take one nutrition course in their med school training. Saying that, several things that will help with constipation. And some things that are not helpful. Some things that increase constipation are: dairy products, sugar, sometimes wheat, meat, sometimes soy. Things that can help: goji berries, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds. green leafy veggies, the darker the better, most fruits and veggies, except potatoes.
The money bribe is a slippery slope. Do the best you can with that. Sometimes an incentive other than money. Smoothies are great to get him to eat new foods. You can use non dairy milk, like, almond, coconut, hemp or rice milk. Add some frozen berries, banana and then some greens- spinach is good to start, just a handful and then try avocado.
Hope this helps,



answers from Washington DC on

My daughter has major sensory issues with food and we have been taking her to a psychologist at a food program for 2 yrs. The program is all about bribery. They suggest giving poker chips or points for trying new foods and then trading them in for prizes of privelidges that they want. If it gets him trying, there is no harm. Parenting is all about bribes. Like potty training, he will eventually be able to eat without needing to be paid.



answers from Little Rock on

I would not continue to bribe him for foods that you have managed to get him to eat and keep eating, but I don't see the harm in bribing him to try a new food. I bribed all my kids into potty training with rewards.

I actually made a rule in my home that you have to eat the vegetables on your plate before you leave the table. I really don't much care if they eat the main dish or not, but the vegetables are a requirement. My oldest cried and gagged for weeks over the rule, but my 2 younger children just followed the rule without any fuss for the most part.

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