Bribery – the not so subtle art of Child Negotiation

June 19, 2018

I recently had to go through our companies yearly on-line corporate anti-bribery & corruption exercise and whilst the actual activity took less than 10 minutes and the questions were in my humble opinion quite generic and common sense I was again perplexed, by the mere fact that this exercise has to be carried out yearly, to question how do other people actually get themselves into a pickle with regards to graft and corruption in this day and age.


Singapore as a near utopian lifestyle environment it seems has more and more cases of Private company and Public servants falling foul of the law in this aspect. CEO’s, COO’s & senior staff on good salary with excellent share options and future prospects throwing caution to the wind and dabbling in activities they know are illegal. Public servants who have invested 10-15-20+ years in their trade and with seemingly sufficient regular pay packet throw the stability away for in some cases just a few thousand dollars uplift from their illegal actions.


What drives this behaviour apart from the usual greed (and power) related windfalls such actions attain? Yes Singapore is increasingly expensive and there is a strong element of keeping up with the Joneses and the usual consumer traps that people equate to wealth and happiness, and yes I am aware that the other varied social pressures of work targets, friends, colleagues, family, partners, mistresses, gambling, bad investments and just wanting a little bit more in the bank for a rainy day.

Regardless of the social and economic drivers described above, do the actual acts come down to something as simple as a basic moral code that some people do not adhere to despite the clear rights & wrongs of these actions? Is it related to something as innocent as childhood and adolescent lessons passed on?


As a relatively new dad I am torn at times between being a strong parent in my goals of raising my children the right way and at times taking the path of least resistance of bribing my children for compliance! In a way I am breaking my own seemingly unflappable moral code with the justification that the end result is better for all despite the obvious wrong lessons being taught to the kids through the action of bribery! 


How many of us claim to hold the moral high ground with our parenting methods but at regular intervals actually enter into one sided negotiations with our kids that are, in short, acts of bribery….not just once or twice but on regular occasions. 

I find it somewhat amusing (and I confess at times highly frustrating) that my 3 year old son can hold his ground and me to ransom to the point that I, the adult 40+ years his senior with 20+ years negotiating complex construction projects with clients contractors, and consultants, am forced to undertake child Bribery to get action. Whilst the act of Bribery may seem minor, a packet of chips, an extra 10minutes of play time, being able to watch his favourite movie if he comes to swimming lessons, in fact what life lessons am I passing on to my kids through my actions of offering bribes? That everything has a price and you do not do anything unless there is some form of gratification associated and for parents what does it tell us of our parenting? that getting the desired outcome is more important than doing the right thing to get to that outcome?


Sitting back and contemplating this course of actions I came to the stark realisation that every move with my kids upbringing, development and day to day activities to date and into the future is like an elaborate chess game with moves and counter moves, some planned well in advance to entice the wee ones into doing things that are good for them, some are subtle acts and some are time honoured acts that without thinking twice are logical and are creating good lifelong habits (regular dinner and bath times, standard bed times and teeth brushing routines for example) and then there are the sudden brick walls when “regular negotiations” fail and we revert to acts of Bribery to get the wee ones back on our track with their development and upbringing.

Yesterday I had to bribe my son with some hot chips (fries) if he would come swimming, all the while knowing full well he loves swimming and once at the pool would invariably be like a duck in water…..but I had to get him there first. Later that evening I was forced to promise him his favourite story and allowing his new favourite dinosaur to sleep in the bed with him if he would come upstairs to bed and brush his teeth. Today it was a bus ride home from the mall if he finished all his lunch followed that afternoon by being able to watch a cartoon if he put his toys away….. shock horror my parenting is a never ending series of Bribes.

I have as a result of writing this article and the awareness of my daily Bribery actions become acutely aware of my failings as a good and righteous parent I once thought I held the moral high ground on.


Whilst I would like to think that being aware of my failings going forward I will be able to curb these weak acts of child Bribery and enter into more earnest “adult to child negotiations” to convince my children of the reason for doing things however I am ashamedly too weak, despite being a parent 40+ yrs their senior, to the stoic attitude of my wee ones and their steely determination not to budge on an issue, any issue it seems, regardless of logic or common sense and I know I will revert to the time honoured and not too subtle act of bribery.


I am hoping that as the years go on and my children get older these acts of Bribery will eventually cease and we will reach that utopian state of them seeing logic for my reasonable parental requests but alas looking back on my own adolescence (and I was not a bad adolescent) and the conversations and situations had with my wonderful parents I know the Bribery will eventually be replaced with different forms of punishment for wrongdoings, inaction or not doing the right thing when told………is this new cycle of activity a right of passage all children must go through? or more simply a pre-determined preparation of the young to the consequence of actions (or inactions) in the elaborate chess game of life which in itself forms part of the moral code of discovering what is right and what is wrong, who has the authority and the requirement as individuals in society to act with social compliance to that authority, which will hopefully teach young and impressionable minds that doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons regardless of self justification may result in finding oneself in some pretty hot adult bath water.


So as I sit here ashamed of my inability to convince my two kids under 4yrs old to do things simply because “daddy said so” and I know bribery is and will be the easy out, I feel somewhat relieved that I will in fact get a second chance at prepping my children’s moral code for the future with some good old time honoured adolescent punishment of restricted privilages, extra chores and the odd grounding. Thank goodness for second chances



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