An Education in Bribing

If you are going to travel with kids then there is one parenting skill which you have to learn, and it is under the category labelled ‘dark arts’. The skill in question is bribery and you are most certainly going to need to have it in your arsenal if you want to remain sane and ensure that everyone gets to where they are going in one piece.

When I speak to other moms, some friends back home or some who are on their vacations, I get the feeling that I use this technique more than most, but then I am very much reminded of why, and that is that we do this full time, most mothers are able to send their kids to nursery or school where they are then given some freedom, whereas traveling with kids means that you are constantly there.

The Subtle Bribe

The most commonly used bribe in my locker is the subtle bribe, the dangling of a possible experience or something of that ilk which my child is asking for, and I remain mute. It is a key component of the subtle bribe that you do not say yes or no to the child’s request to go to some amusements for example, a stock response like ‘we’ll see’ is usually enough for our kid to recognize the danger that any bad behavior could cause, and naturally they don’t want to ruin a potential chance. It is important to recognize that kids are eternally optimistic and that is why they will act a certain way if they are in with a chance. The beauty of the silent bribe is that if they do act up, you can simply go home at the end of the day, having not gone to the amusements, and your kids won’t really have a leg to stand on.


If we are in for a potentially challenging travel day or a day which I know that the kids are not going to enjoy, I bring the big guns out and hit them with an all out threat. Something along the lines of ‘if you are not on your best behavior today, there will be no EuroDisney for you’ harsh, but in many cases absolutely necessary in order to get the message home. I don’t like being this person, but it does help throughout the day as when they do misbehave, the simple showing of a photo of Mickey is enough to taper things.


I am very conscious that whilst it is tempting, this is not a strategy which should be employed at all times, as the effects will generally wear off. Another aspect to be careful of is what you are using for the bribe. I caught myself out with this one a few months back when, after a very tough day on my own with the kids, I may have accidentally threatened that there’d be no food for them if they didn’t behave, I know, horrendous. I quickly ensured that they did get food and that i was ‘only joking’ but in my hour of desperation, the tactic did go slightly sour.

Bribery, sadly, is sometimes the best langauge for you kids to hear, but use it sparingly.