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It’s Not Bribing, It’s Currency

By Beth Anne Ballance |

7753ee0a764111e2ac9b22000a1fb864_6My good friend and fellow working momma Brandy and I talk toddlers together on a daily basis, whether it’s on a walk or over email or during lunch. It’s wonderful having a friend who knows exactly what I’m going through with my own toddler and we bounce ideas off each other. We’d talk about how to get our toddlers to eat their vegetables, put on their coats, use the potty and Brandy was the first one in our group to coin the term “finding your toddler’s currency.”

Some call it bribery, but that’s a little bitter-tasting in the mouth, right?

It’s an age-old parenting tactic that most of us employ on a regular basis:

“You can’t have dessert until you eat your vegetables.”

“You can’t play video games until you finish your homework.”

“You can play outside once all of your chores are done.”

“You can have that toy when you bring home an A in English.”

Some people may sniff at this tactic as lazy parenting, but I think finding a child’s currency is genius – you get what you want, he gets what he wants. Bim, bam, thank you ma’am. For our family, we struggled mightily with potty training but once I brought his currency in – time to play Angry Birds – the power struggle ended & we had success.  Personally, I think it works because it shares the control – the child can choose not to do it, but they will lose something they want badly. It brings out a level of age-appropriate personal responsibility (depending on the task and reward).

The hard part is finding the toddler’s currency. My suggestion? Pick something that is an activity, that he has easy and daily access to. Like a game on the iPad or bubble bath or Hershey Kiss after dinner.

And be ready to start all over again when his “currency” changes!

Do you use “currency” in your parenting? Does it work well? What is your toddler’s currency?

BA writes really cool stuff:

What my toddler thinks I do all day at work.


This is why mothers are tired all the time.

Cool swingsets, like boats & castles.

18 awesome dollhouses, both DIY & store-bought

Parenting is amazing.

Parenting sucks, y’all.

My favorite Etsy stuff.

Beth Anne writes words & takes pictures at Okay, BA! You can also find her on the Twitters & Facebook.

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About Beth Anne Ballance


Beth Anne Ballance

Beth Anne Ballance is a born and bred Southern Belle, blogging at okay, ba and using words and pictures to celebrate the challenges of motherhood and the joy of life. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. Read bio and latest posts → Read Beth Anne's latest posts →

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4 thoughts on “It’s Not Bribing, It’s Currency

  1. Lindsey says:

    Oh we do this! We found what motivates our 3yr old and BAM! SUCCESS!! She has the control, makes her own decision and either earns what she wants or doesn’t. No more power struggle and when it doesn’t go her way it’s on her. We also use a lot of “if/then” statements, works great.

  2. JP says:

    We’re struggling with this now. We use this method but I don’t think it works well. I believe the purpose for your authority in the lives of your children is not to hold them under your power, but to empower them to be self-controlled people.

    Obviously I don’t have all the answers…but I’m searching. Most importantly, I think you and your significant other have to be UNIFIED. No matter what you do…do it together!

  3. Brandy says:

    Oh please tell me that is JP’s Lindsey in the comment above…CLASSIC. But first I have to give credit to my husband for the term. Second, I just watched Freaknomics on Netflix and they have a whole section on “incentives” and how a lot of people respond to it. They even do experiments on paying kids for good grades. We are always searching for the currency. Sometimes it is something so trivial but I think it teaches them cause and effect.

  4. Roxy says:

    I was paid for my report card. I was only paid for A’s.

    I always had a straight A report card.

    There was extra cash if I got an A+

    I plan to do the same with my children.

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