To Give is Human, To Bribe is Divine

String Bean is enjoying fifth grade.  Thank goodness.

The Captain and I were more than ready for the continued horror of the fourth grade to be over.

At the beginning of the String Bean’s fourth grade school year, he was happy, enjoyed going, and was excited to share what he learned.

After a month in, we learned that the rules for fourth grade were quite different from third grade.  One of the biggest rules we learned right from the get go was it’s every man for himself.  I wrote about our struggles here.


Being high school teachers, The Captain and I have some strong mild philosophies on education. We believe that our duty as teachers is to teach and empower students, not to tear them down.  For some reason, the fourth grade philosophy is different.  It adds an excited dose of humiliation and public embarrassment into the mix.  Fourth grade for my son this past year beheld a different theory.  It specialized in Darwin’s survival of the fittest.  Not a good thing.

By the last nine weeks, it got to the point where my husband, The Captain, started bribing String Bean.

Let me rewind for a moment.  The Captain does not believe in giving monetary rewards for grades.  He does not believe in giving gifts for grades.  He does not believe in any tangible rewards for grades.  Until now.

In the car this past spring, the dudes were talking about the upcoming state mandated tests.

“My class gets to have a movie day Friday after our tests are over,” Squishy said, happily.

“Well, we get a cool pizza party when our tests are over,” added String Bean.

The Captain is seething. “We let kids graduate when they pass our tests.”

Squishy interjects, “Your butt is going to graduate.”

“Dad’s butt already graduated,” I said.  (Side note: I have boys.  Butt jokes and fart jokes are imperative ways to get everyone’s attention.  It works.  Ask any mom of boys.)

“I don’t think these parties are necessary,” stated The Captain, or, Captain Obvious because it was obvious how he felt about the matter.

“It is a nice motivator for the kids, don’t you think?” I said.  I am the awesome peacemaker/cheerleader/glass half full/uber positive one in the family.

“I don’t think they should be rewarded.  I hate bribes,”  said The Captain.

“Dad, if I do well on the tests, will you get me an XBox 360?” String Bean asks.

I looked over at The Captain.  His ears turned red, a vein pulsated on his neck and he is in a low growl.  The car teetered on silence that seems to stretch on for miles.  No one breathes.  The air is frozen. All are awaiting the response that is surely going to include the word “no” in it.

“Maybe. Well, yes,” he finally said.

What the heck?!

“Yes, I will get you an Xbox 360 if you do well on the tests,” he stated.

I almost steered off of the road.

“Do you realize how expensive those things are?” I quietly asked him.

“No. Fifty bucks or something?” he asked.

“Uh, try two fifty, dude,” I said.  “Plus, we have a Wii already. We really don’t need one.”

Meanwhile, the back seat of the car is all abuzz with the amazing news.  I heard snippets about how awesome Dad was, and the games they were going to get, and how much they needed to get it with two controllers, and that they needed Kinect so even Mom can play games like Just Dance.

The Captain looked pained.

“A deals a deal, dude,” I said to him as we pulled into our destination.

The tests were taken. May ended.  Summer began with the anxiety of when THE RESULTS would come.

It took a while.

Finally, in late July, it arrived.  Believe me when I say that there were many heartbreaking trips to the mailbox – back and forth, back and forth – from May until then.  What happens when kids have time to kill in the summer?  Stalk the mail lady, of course!

On the day of THE LETTER’s miraculous arrival, String Bean grabbed it and raced up the driveway to have me open it on the spot.  To this day I am still unsure of how he knew it was THE LETTER.  All the envelope said was the district name (which is also where The Captain teaches – that letter could’ve been anything.) But it was certainly the one the dudes had been waiting for.

I opened it in a truly dramatic fashion, slowly and meticulously peeling it out of the envelope.  It was “the one.”

The results were there in black and white. String Bean did fine on the tests.  The Captain had to get an XBox 360.

A happy dude!

To give is human, to bribe (only this one time, I promise) was divine.

So excuse me while I go and play Just Dance.  After all, the dudes insisted on it.  So sweet of them!


33 thoughts on “To Give is Human, To Bribe is Divine

  1. And here’s to hoping that 5th grade goes a WHOLE lot better! After meeting with our school’s guidance/admin/special ed/etc departments, in the hopes of finally getting some things in place for Little Man (his JUNIOR year!), I am feeling your pain and chomping at the bit… we’ll see, in November if anything comes of it. Until then, I will write tawdry things and remember the bribing advice. It does work… as much s we hate it. 😉

  2. Ahhhh….welcome to the slippery slope of bribery. My husband and I are still there as much as we hate to admit it. We also believe that kids need to be self-motivated, but inevitably situations seem to arise that make bribery a necessity. Yep, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

  3. I know what everyone says about bribes and I’m all for not abusing them, but I definitely think there is a time and a place for them. Every now and then, I think it’s OK to give your kids a reward, a little push to do something. At this point, you haven’t spoiled them and they know not to expect it for everything. Go enjoy that Xbox! Just maybe next time tell your husband that you will make the deals. 😉

  4. We have a monetary system going for our teenage boy this year. It’s give and take, though. He’s just lazy as heck and we are at a loss when it comes to getting him to do his school work. Ugh.

    • The homework cycle is so frustrating, isn’t it? I am sure it is hard with teenagers more than elementary kids. I think by the teen years it is not about bribery but taking important things away – like the phone. Hope you find a solution that works!

  5. Awesome! There are times when a bribe is in order and when you make it a very, very rare event it is all that more special and unexpected. Enjoy the fruits of the bribe and dance away!

  6. Desperate times call for desperate measures. It’s amazing how our moral code and standards break down over grades and such. Not a proud moment for the Captain but a great one for String bean! Yay! haha!
    (Btw – for some reason I don’t get alerted when you and a few others post things. Argh. This is not the first time it’s happened. I’m looking into it but just thought I’d give you an fyi.)

    • Desperate times indeed! I didn’t think we would make it through 4th grade!

      I hope you are now getting my posts! My friend had to unfollow me and then re-follow me because she wasn’t getting them… I have no idea why that would have happened.

  7. Are you kidding me?!!! Most kids get out of diapers and into big boy/girl underwear because of bribes! Awesome! Having taught, I say shame on the teacher who publicly dismantled the child’s fragile self-esteem .

    • I completely agree. That age is so fragile – it is amazing what a great teacher can do and what a not-so-great teacher can do. Luckily, we had him tutored by one of the greats and that certainly helped!

  8. That’s a great story. We don’t reward for good grades either (it’s a do or die kind of thing), but sometimes it’s just plain fun (and good luck for the kids) to get a really cool reward, or bribe…same thing.

    Glad for your kids!

    • Thanks, FringeGirl! We usually don’t reward for grades either, but it was one of those crazy situations. I would have been fine getting him a pack or two of Pokemon cards. 😉

  9. What a great story. We have had a tough time in school with a little guy who uses both hands equally and still cannot write fast enough to catch up. I love stories with a happy ending and I needed this. Its nice to know the whole world is not perfectly pink, but has twists and elements of purple and green all about.

    What I mean is…. thank you for sharing.

    • Anytime! And thank you for stopping by!! I sure hope your little guy has a good year this year. Keep me posted on how it goes! I love what you said about the world not being perfectly pink. So incredibly true.

  10. Why is this so true about 4th grade? And on another note, you just gave me a fabulous idea about a bribe gone bad at my house. It involves a 17 year old boy, Prom, Straight A’s and a Shelby Mustang.

  11. Haha, I’m so not looking forward to my kids growing up and suggesting bribery! My 6-year old constantly tries to negotiate, he would be the best car salesman on the parking lot, selling Ferraris like hot cakes to grandmas and grandpas.

    • Hilarious! I have one of those who is a brilliant negotiator. I always say that if kids under the age of 10 could debate, all the world’s problems would be solved and ice cream would be a major food group! 🙂

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