Parenting 101: Bribery, Negotiation and (sometimes) Threats

by Samantha on February 17, 2011

They don’t tell you the truth. It’s a carefully kept secret that those in the parenting club keep under wraps until you too are bestowed the title of “mom” or “dad.”
Shrouded in mystery, this key to success and relative calm as a parent is rarely shared with those who have not yet crossed over into the world where chaos is the norm, and calm (or relative quiet) is the perennial but not always achievable goal.
The holy grail of parenting - that which allows those of us who are in the trenches to experience some semblance of peace, is a simple formula of activity which I guarantee will buy you the calm that you more than likely desire. This key to parenting success, I can assure you, is commonly used with great effect by those in the know.
So what is the secret, the one that will free you from the never-ending fear that you are doing it wrong and ruining someone’s life forever?
It is what I call “The BNT Strategy:” Bribery, Negotiation and (sometimes) Threats. These are working pinnacles of most parents’ tools of the trade, whether they admit it or not. 
With my tongue firmly planted in cheek I shall state that there is an old saying about many truths often being found in jest. So while I reveal to the world my apparent lack of qualified parenting skills to those who may fail to see the humour in this post (or those who are probably just better at getting their kids to do what they should do, when they should do it), I do so with the humble hope that:
1)There are others out there who have on more than one occasion said to their children that they would not get “x” if they didn’t do “y;” and;
2) Some of you reading will realize that you are not the only one who has bribed your children with treats and TV in order to get some well-needed down time, even if it was just a few minutes
3)You or someone you know has had a serious, heart-to-heart give-and-take negotiation session that involved one party whose age group was in the double-digits and the other whose age was under 10.
A large part of being a parent includes bribery, negotiation and threats. It’s an ugly truth, but true nonetheless.
We would all agree that most experts would balk at the thought of the terms “bribery” and “threats” being used in the same sentence as “children” or “parenting” for that matter. That said, I think it’s safe to say that these tactics are used more commonly than not, due to the fact that parents are exasperated, irritable and just plain exhausted. I might clarify here for the sake of complete transparency that I use the word “threat” in the most simplistic and general of terms. By no means is this post advocating the delivery of harm (real or perceived) to children. 
On that note, my thought is that these three methods of exacting peace amongst the family ranks is more common than not. I’d love to hear your thoughts:
Do you ever use bribery, negotiation or threats in order to get your children to behave?
If you don’t have children, how do you feel about parents who use these tactics on their kids?
I’m curious to hear your views.
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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Crazy Cat Lady February 17, 2011 at 1:22 pm

During my 26 year tenure as a parent, I have employed all of these tactics (at times, simultaneously!).

I have, however, absolved myself of all guilt in the matter by putting aside an annual sum to cover the cost of therapy should my son ever require it.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with striving to obtain a minute's downtime (regardless of how this is achieved). As a harried, married, working parent, you not only deserve it but it's absolutely essential if you don't want to end up on the doctor's 'couch' yourself!


Samantha February 17, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Thanks for the comment, Crazy Cat Lady! Glad to hear I'm not the only one employing these tactics :) ;)


Leah February 17, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Hell ya, I use BNT daily!
When I was pregnant with my first (now 3.5 yrs), I heard rumblings of the BNT strategy (not referred to as such, but what it was), and I thought: “I'll never need to do that.” LOL. Riiiight…
I've come to accept it. It's as much a part of parenting as are the millions of hugs and kisses my kids get daily.
Great blog - I'll be following you regularly. :)


Samantha February 17, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Thanks for your comment, Leah!

It's amazing how common this “BNT Strategy” really is! All of us parents at some time or another have used it, I think, sometimes out of sheer necessity!

Glad to hear you'll be following the blog :)


Skiba February 17, 2011 at 5:47 pm

I too am guilty of using the standard bribes to try to get my children to eat their dinner etc.. Recently I have started to notice that this method is no longer effective. My two year old has began to adamantly advise me that he doesn't care about getting any treats and therefore refuses to eat any of his dinner. Although these bandage quick fixes have worked in the past and allowed us to get through the moment or the meal, they also have allowed the bad behaviour to return with an even greater vengeance. In an ideal world, a parent would be able to calmly educate a child in every instance about importance of properly nourishing your body or acting appropriately. The reality is that parents struggle just to keep up with the basic tasks. It is clear that I need a new strategy, as I want these kids to grow into polite, resourceful and benevolent adults who do not expect a reward or compensation for everything act they perform.
Perhaps through the ideas on your blog, we can find a way to make the impossible possible.


Samantha February 17, 2011 at 11:25 pm

Thanks for your insightful post, Skiba. It is definitely a challenge getting our kids to do what we would like them to do - especially when it comes to their well-being. Things like eating healthy meals, going to bed at a reasonable time and behaving seem so obvious to us adults but to children it's another story. How interesting that your two-year-old has staged a “revolt” of sorts. It's amazing how quickly they learn the tricks and engage in power struggles with their parents to “show who's boss.”

Your point about the ideal world is well-taken; I think that's the problem: we all have an “ideal” world in which we have been socialized to base our parenting skills on, but in reality, being able to keep up with this Utopia would be impossible for even the most patient of parents.

I think it's time that we as parents give ourselves a collective break - in other words, stop being so hard on ourselves - and pass the chips (and the remote…) :)


Holly Ann February 18, 2011 at 5:03 am

Oh geesh - Of course I use those! All the time. Lucky me - I'm also a teacher so I knew well enough even before having kids that I'd be using these strategies time and again. I'd also like to add that I'm generally not a fan of lying to my kids, but little white lies like “Minnie Mouse would LOVE it if you went potty!” are definitely in my repertoire as well. :)

Your newest follower,


Samantha February 18, 2011 at 11:46 am

Thanks for your comment, Holly :)

I guess being a teacher allows you to hone your “BNT Strategy” skills on a regular basis ;)

And yes - you're right about the white lies. Mine often sound something like this: “Broccoli is SO DELICIOUS! EVERYBODY loves broccoli.”

Thanks for following!


Mrs. E February 18, 2011 at 1:53 pm

I think most parents use bribery as a tactic at one point or another. It helps us keep our sanity. Your not the only one. I'm am guilty also. But, I also think it teaches them a valuable lesson. That sometimes you have to work for the things you want and if you work for it you can be rewarded for your good behavior. :) Nice post!


Samantha February 18, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Thanks, Mrs. E.

I agree that sometimes we have no other choice than to institute one of these tactics. Case in point - a screaming child in the middle of a grocery store. As much as we would like to think we can handle it, in many cases, the bribery option would be what would make the most sense - and what would work most quickly - at the time. I definitely agree as well that children should learn that they can be awarded for their good behaviour. I find that as they get older, the lesson tends to sink in and less of the “BNT Strategy” is necessary.

Thanks for commenting!


Melanie February 18, 2011 at 9:01 pm

I don't have any kids - but I see nothing wrong with the BNT strategy! I think whatever it takes to keep your sanity! Especially with all the kids that you have. I don't know how you manage!


Samantha February 18, 2011 at 11:54 pm

Thanks, Melanie - I think all parents do whatever it takes to keep their sanity…and that often entails bribery and negotiation. Even if it's with a three-year-old!
Thanks for your comment.


Rick February 19, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Well, politicians use these techniques in foreign policy, so I don't see what's is wrong with starting them early. ;)


Samantha February 19, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Agreed! Thanks, Rick!


Val-Mom Chats February 20, 2011 at 8:29 am

Well for what it is worth, I believe anyone not using the BNT method even just a little bit is lieing because they want to look like the “ultimate parent” or their kids are those that we all have to parent for them because they don't enforce any rules.

Thankfully it wasn't a secret to me as my parents used these tactics with me and my brother lol Although I try not to use straight bribery very often or it looses it's touch.


Veronica Lee February 20, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Hi! Stopping by from MBC. Great blog.
Have a nice day!


Samantha February 20, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Thanks for stopping by, Veronica :)


Tracy February 21, 2011 at 3:24 am

HI Samantha! Stopping by from Bloggy Moms to follow and say HI. Following you now as well. Looking forward to your visit @
Take care, Tracy


ohkeeka February 21, 2011 at 3:25 am

I think sometimes you get so worn down, you just have to do what you have to do. The key is not to make it a habit. I know people who bribe their kids on a regular basis and I hate to say it, but they're raising little monsters.

Thanks for stopping by my blog, BTW. :)


Stacey February 21, 2011 at 3:30 am

Thanks for following my blog!
Following back now!


Elisabeth Hirsch February 21, 2011 at 3:30 am

I've used them all. LOL! Nice topic.

I'm following from bloggy moms.


DanielleCorrelle February 21, 2011 at 3:55 am

LOL, yes. I would say BNT it used daily here in some way or another.

Stopping by and following from Bloggy Moms.

Have a great night!


Samantha February 21, 2011 at 3:57 am

@Tracey - Thanks for stopping by and commenting :) I checked out your blog and am following you as well!


Samantha February 21, 2011 at 4:01 am

@Okhkeeka - I agree - sheer fatigue is what compels most of us parents to do whatever it takes - even when it does entail bribery (or threats for that matter). I'd hate to thank that bribery was a regular occurrence but we all know there are those times where you're desperate to have them behave. Anyway, I know what you're saying - sometimes it is too much and the kids end up having the upper hand in some instances. Parenting is a continual balancing act, isn't it?
Thanks for following my blog :)


Samantha February 21, 2011 at 4:03 am

@Stacey - Thanks for stopping by! :)


Rachel Kasal February 21, 2011 at 4:28 am

Hi Samantha,
Stopping by from Bloggy Moms. I never understood the Artof Bribery until I had my little one. At the end of the day I am exhausted and picking my battles! lol


Samantha February 21, 2011 at 4:36 am

@Elisabeth - So glad to hear that I'm not the only one! As a matter of fact, seems from this post and the subsequent comments that it's more common than not to use the BNT Strategy, or WHATEVER MEANS NECESSARY. There's strength in numbers, clearly!


Samantha February 21, 2011 at 4:47 am

@Danielle - Thanks for stopping by! Going to check your blog out now :)


Samantha February 21, 2011 at 4:49 am

@Rachel - The Art of Bribery - Love it! yes, It is an art, isn't it? Not everyone does it well…
Thanks for your comment!



The Crypto-Capers Series February 21, 2011 at 11:44 am

I am following you through bloggy moms. Please return the follow at


Samantha February 21, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Thanks Renee! I have checked out your blog and am following you too :)


Mrs. Laborn February 21, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Love your blog! I also have twins ( boy and girl 6yrs old ) and I can relate to the things you go through in life! I am following! follow me at:


Samantha February 21, 2011 at 2:54 pm

@Mrs. Laborn - So you know the drill with twins, huh? Fun times!! Thanks for stopping by and following my blog. I will follow yours as well and look forward to getting some tips from other twin moms :)


Patrish March 22, 2011 at 5:08 am

When I was younger I thought that bribery was unacceptable…… Now that I have a little more experience I have learned first to pick my battles and if bribery works, well more power to ya!


Samantha March 29, 2011 at 3:11 pm

It's amazing how your perspective changes when it has to! As you get into the trenches parenting, you realize that sometimes there's no choice but to use the BNT strategy. We all do what we have to to get by!

Thanks for commenting.


Anonymous April 30, 2011 at 3:04 am

Lots of good reading here, thanks! I had been searching on yahoo when I discovered your publish, I’m going to add your feed to Google Reader, I look forward to a lot more from you.


Samantha April 30, 2011 at 10:24 am

@Anonymous So glad you like my blog :) Thanks for reading!


Parental Control July 8, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Bribery and threatening always does not work, rather a more intelligent way is monitoring their activities and confront them with proofs of their bad influences. i.e use a mobile spy software. By this the conversation will be peaceful and you will have to think of ways to make them understand how nefarious they had been on that particular matter.


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