2 Ways To Stop Pleading, Begging, and Bribing Your Kids

Bedtime has officially become a chore in the Straub household. Think delay tactics, manipulation, and even playing “lovey dovey” to get his way. Yes, our two-year-old can be a master manipulator.

And let me tell you, he’s good!

In the last few weeks Christi and I have found ourselves reading books to him a little later, playing “trains” a little longer, and “redding up” his toys for him (if you’re a fellow PA native) or cleaning up, (if you’re anybody else), all in the name of “helping” Landon.

Those are the good nights. The troubling part about bedtime is not only has it gotten longer, we found ourselves using the same doggone tactics he’s using on us—manipulating, begging, pleading, and yes, whining just to get him into bed. I even found myself making promises I knew I wouldn’t keep.

How can such a little immature body have the power to turn a mature man into a whiny brat himself?

By giving up our authority.

When you find yourself pleading, begging, or even yelling at your kids, you’ve turned over your authority as a parent.

Just the other night I was finishing up a few dishes before bedtime. I told Landon to put his blocks away. Instead, he sat on them, drinking his milk as if I never said a word. With wet hands and a full sink of dirty dishes, I kept scrubbing. With a strong desire to finish the dishes, I figured a good ole’ fashion threat would get him moving, “If you don’t put your blocks away right now, you’re going straight to bed. No books.”

That’s when Christi walked in behind me. “Josh, if he’s going to listen we have to follow through on what we tell him we’re going to do.”

I know this in my head, but when it comes to doing it, it’s so easy to get distracted, or even do for our kids what they should be doing for themselves.

Here are two ways we’re teaching our kids to comply with respect without losing our authority—or our cool.

1.   Make listening and following the rules fun. Bedtime routines and power struggles don’t have to be a drain. The earlier we start showing our children they’re not in charge, the less struggles we’ll have with them over time.

To make listening and following the rules fun, we have to be attuned to our child. Playing games and having fun with routines is less likely to happen when they’re already melting down. As soon as we see Landon start to delay on something we tell him to do, we sometimes play a game of Simon Says, (only inserting Daddy says, or Mommy says). When we join in with fun, toys get picked up quicker, teeth get brushed more thoroughly, and the power of teamwork is learned.

Sometimes we sing, “If you’re happy and you know it” as well.

Whatever you decide, be creative and show your kids by how you handle these moments that submitting to authority doesn’t have to be a struggle of the wills.

2.   Consistency, Consistency, Consistency. Our kids pick up on what we do more than what we say. If we say we’re going to do something, we need to follow through. If we tell Landon he can’t touch the space heater one moment, but allow him to do it the next, we send a mixed message that he can get his way if he’s persistent.

Leading our kids well is showing them that no matter the situation, the rules matter—every time. Not just when it’s convenient for us. The more consistent we are, the less pleading, begging, and bribing we’ll need to do.

Raising kids who lead well means teaching them to respect authority without bribes. When we do, our kids learn to follow the rules using their own moral compass.  

Besides, great leaders first learn to be great followers.


Joshua Straub, Ph.D. is an advocate for families and parenting in the 21st century. As a family and relationships coach, he loves coming alongside families to provide encouragement, support and practical counsel. Josh specializes in combining the scientific research with biblical wisdom to provide the best-of-all-worlds perspective on raising stellar kids, having an awesome marriage and living a full life. He is the author of the upcoming release Safe House: How Emotional Safety is the Key to Raising Kids Who Live, Love, and Lead Well (October 2015, Waterbrook Multnomah), and along with his wife Christi, is coauthor and producer of the video series and workbook, The Screen-Balanced Family: Six Secrets to a More Connected Family in the 21st Century. He wakes up each day striving to love others better, starting with his wife Christi and their two children, Landon and Kennedy.

For more encouragement and ideas on marriage and parenting in the 21st century you can join Josh and a growing tribe of awesome families at www.joshuastraub.com and follow him on Twitter @joshuastraub or Facebook.