The Bribe: Does hush money pay off?

12.08.10: Leo's 30th Month

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Is there anything harder on the lower back than chasing around a 3 foot person and trying to get them into a coat while they go limp, wriggle to the floor and escape? No amount of yoga can protect a person from the inevitable strain this produces—particularly on the psyche.

I was watching sympathetically as my friend Lauren engaged in outerwear wrestling with her daughter after a lovely playdate at our house recently and Lauren mentioned that another friend of hers had offered a lollipop to sweeten the goodbye process at her house. “You know, a bribe,” Lauren explained. When she refused the kind offer, her friend said “Ah, you’re going to do it the hard way.” “Interesting,” I said, as Lauren’s daughter evaded mittens. “We have lollipops, if you’ve changed your mind?” Nope, she stayed strong. And eventually, they got out the door.

After that, I guess I had bribes on the brain because when we trooped out to a housewares store for a curtain rod last weekend I threw a Halloween Hershey’s bar in my pocket. In the store, Leo, who hadn’t napped, grabbed hold of a large red spatula and made a break for it. I chased him up and down a few aisles, then grabbed him as he flailed and shouted, the spatula tightly in his grip. “Leo,” I said, “would you like some chocolate?”

“Yes!” he said, releasing the spatula, suddenly sane, civil, and very pleasantly surprised. I handed over half the chocolate bar. “This, my son, is a bribe,” I told him. “I’m bribing you to behave in this store.” Leo raised an eyebrow and devoured the chocolate. Aaron took him outside while I waited to pay. As soon as we got back in the car the shouting began. “I WANT MORE CHOCOLATE! GIMME CHOCOLATE!” “Please use an inside voice and ask nicely,” I replied. He complied and I gave up the rest of the bar. Moments later the shouting began again. “That worked,” Aaron and I grimaced as we drove home the monster we’d created.

Since then, I’ve been focusing on being more proactive, more creative, energetic, humorous, patient…you know, a better mom. Along those lines, I’ve also been trying to get more balanced dinners on the table. This week I’m all about make-ahead Simmer Sauces. You could even break out the slow-cooker for this one: set it up with chicken parts and sauce on low heat in the morning if you’re applying for Super Mom status. I tend not to think ahead like that though, so you’re more likely to find me paying off my kid with grapes as I try to get dinner on the table.

What’s your take on bribery? Do you do it? Blatantly? On the sly? All the time or only in moments of desperation? Does it work?!

Recipe: Tomato-Spinach Simmer Sauce

Zoe Singer is a freelance food writer and cookbook editor and co-author of The Flexitarian Table. Food Editor and blogger for The Faster Times, she tries not to eat for two now that her son is a toddler.