Why bribing your child to eat is a very bad idea (even if it works!)
“Bribery works!” parents sometimes tell me …
“I offer them 5 chocolate buttons if they eat their broccoli – and they eat it!” Or “I say they can have an ice-lolly out the freezer if they have more of their dinner – and they eat a few more mouthfuls.”
Yes, bribery CAN work – but only in the short-term! In the long-term, it makes fussy eating worse.
At that meal, in that moment, maybe your child eats what you want them to eat. But the whole time, it’s actually chip, chip, chipping away at your child’s own inclination to eat – and exacerbating their fussy eating. Here’s why.
When you bribe your child to eat, your child gets these messages (crystal clear!):
🔹 When I don’t eat something, mummy/daddy offer me something I really like. Brilliant! I’m going to NOT eat things more!
🔹 Eating veg/meat/rice/pasta sauce [whatever your child doesn’t eat] must genuinely be unpleasant if they’re bribing me to eat it – it’s something you have to endure to get to the good bit [the chocolate buttons, the ice-cream …!].
🔹 Mummy/Daddy desperately want me to eat this. Mmm … This puts me in a pretty powerful position! Maybe I’ll dig my heels in and see what happens then …
Yes, bribery doesn’t always work! Your child may equally decide not to take the bait and deliberately go in the other direction. And boy oh boy, it’s hard work, isn’t it? You’re caught up in a vicious circle: Won’t eat-bribe-won’t eat-bribe …
Nope, when it comes to conquering fussy eating, you absolutely need to think longer-term than bribery and have a ‘big picture’ plan.
Find out the principles of what that plan should be here!