THE BLOG

On Bribing Small Children

03/03/2015 06:38 pm ET | Updated May 03, 2015
Yvonne Marie Valtierra

I bribed my son with ice cream to get him to pose for the picture you see above.

I know, I know.

Bribing your kid is "bad."

But I was finally able to afford a photoshoot. A photographer I love had time in her schedule. We had good light. I made it out the door looking good and feeling like my kid looked presentable. You don't just let an opportunity like that pass you by!

I think the last picture that someone else took of us was at an event we were at at a local childrens' bookstore. In... May. Seven months before this photoshoot. By a reporter who just happened to be doing a story about the quaint shop.

The thing is, I, like many moms, have hidden from the camera a lot. I know this is a common phenomenon. I don't feel thin enough. I don't look good enough. There's spit-up on my shirt.

And then I had a moment of hurling myself past these obstacles and pushing past the resistance to capture some memories with my son.

As a single mom, these moments have to be much more predetermined for me. I don't have a husband or partner around to snap candid moments organically. And up until now, my favorite picture of my son and I was one my ex-husband took at my son's 2nd birthday party (he'll be 5 soon).

So. Yes. I bribed him. With the promise of an orange push-up, my atypical boy reluctantly laid down on the cold damp ground so Yvonne could work her magic.

When I saw this picture, my eyes welled with tears. Because she captured a real moment. A moment that I would have gladly given five ice cream bribes for.

It was hard for him. He did not want to be there, on the ground, potentially getting his clothes dirty.

We knew the ground cover only thinly veiled cold mud. That's why we saved the shot for last.

In this moment, in this picture, I am absolutely and completely engrossed in my son. In holding eye contact, in keeping him from despairing in his "I don't want to be doing this"-ness. I was doing everything I could to make him smile. I was doing everything I could to steep him in joy and laughter.

And he was going with me. He was trusting me. He was making a sacrifice for me. By choice.

So, was it that bad to bribe him to get to that outcome?

Let's break it down, starting with these questions:

How young should you start to be compensated for your time and energy?

Do you know any adult who would go to work if nobody was paying them to?

Do you know any adult who, if given all the money they ever wanted or needed, would continue to show up every day for a job? Especially one they didn't want to do?

My job, as a mother, is to nurture and raise a functioning human being. One who respects himself. One who is able to say no when he doesn't want to do something. And one who is also able to be flexible at times to do things he does not want to do.

Not only that, but to hold space for him in which he can safely practice utilizing these tools. A sacred sandbox, a container.

It's my responsibility to do everything I can to capture moments like these, memories of moments of triumph. Moments when I can point out to him how deeply loved he is. How cherished and valued he is. How good he is at overcoming obstacles.

Still think bribing your kid is a "bad" thing?

PS: If you know any single moms, try to snap some pictures of her and her kiddos next time you are together. Or better yet, book her a photoshoot. Bribery not required.

You can cozy up in the developing Mama's Corner over at KimCaloca.com. I'm brewing something special for you there.