I am very comfortable with bribery. Our parenting theory boils down to the fine balance of threats and bribes and knowing how and when to use which.
Vacations are tricky. We like our children to come away from long car trips and boring museums with snorts and giggles, not snot and tears. In order to make that happen we have adopted a number of mostly proven methods that involve large quantities of rewards from China.
The most sought after vacation prize among our children comes in the form of the Picking Bag. My own brilliant mother invented this method a few years ago (where was she when we were small children?) during one of our annual girls’ weekends. It’s a small suitcase loaded to the hilt with really cheap stuff.
If you are caught being particularly nice or especially funny, or if you get the door for her or offer to carry her bags, you get to pluck a treasure from the picking bag. I’m 30 something years old and am still hypnotized by the smell of all that plastic potential wafting from the Picking Bag.
Last week I loaded up my own Picking Bag for our four kids, carefully catered with toys for each of my children. I brought it home and stashed it in the garage where no one would find it.
The following morning as we headed out and prepared for our first round of picks I took a quick tour through the bag to double check and make sure I hadn’t left anything out.
Two rather substantial toys were missing; both of them were in the Harrison Would Really Like This Toy category.
“Harrison,” I called to my nine-year-old, “Did you get into the Picking Bag and take out the motorbike rider and the legos?”
Jason and I looked at each other, my husband watching Harry’s face in his rear view mirror. Jason leaned over a little and winked at me. “Ask him again,” he said. “He’s a terrible liar.” Our kids are too young to realize that their father detects lies for a living. Harrison’s lies are so obvious he might as well tattoo “Guilty” on his forehead and grow a wooden nose.
“Honey,” I said, “If you tell the truth right now it’s not going to be nearly as bad as it will when we catch you.”
“Mom!” he said indignantly, “I didn’t do it! I’m serious! Gosh!”
Jason and I looked at each other and stifled a laugh. “Well son,” my husband said, “If you didn’t do it and you’re really sure that’s your final answer then we trust you.”
“Us and Jesus,” I said, “Don’t forget that He’s watching.” Harrison instantly went a little green in the gills. The trap was set.
I gave him two more opportunities during the week to fess up to the stolen toys but each time his refusal was more adamant and he was more offended that I would suggest such a thing.
We’re finally home and today I began the process of unpacking. I pulled open his desk drawer and what do you think I found?
Our family was heading out to pick up the dog and Harrison’s punishment for his tripple lie was a hefty chore list. The neighbors said they’d keep an eye out for him if he had any problems so we lectured him, warned him with certain doom if he failed, and left for two hours.
Thirty minutes later we called him from the blue tooth to see how he was doing.
“Barney and Friends” was blasting so loud in the background we could barely hear him.
“Hello?” he yelled into the receiver.
“Uh, hi son,” Jason said. “What are you doing?”
The TV children sang at the top of their voices, “If all the raindrops were lemon drops and gum drops…” and Harrison paused, thinking. “Um…” he finally said, “Cleaning.”
We’ve got to come up with better punishments.