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Dirty parenting secret: I bribe my kids with candy

Renata Osinska/Getty Images/Hemera

I always swore I wouldn't be that kind of parent. You know, the one you overhear saying, "Now Timmy, if you're a good boy, Mommy will give you a lollipop." Well, that was before I became the Mommy.

When I was a kid, my cousin and I witnessed a well-meaning, older relative offer my younger brother a cookie during one of his tantrums. We couldn't wrap our heads around why he would be rewarded for his terrible behaviour. For years afterward, the word "cookie" would send us into fits of laughter as we imagined a wild, feral-like child being appeased with this treat.

Now that I am a mother, cookie has been replaced with candy.

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You see, I am the mother of not one, not two, but three boys. And going anywhere with the three of them requires careful tactical planning. The rule of thumb is: Get in, get out, and do the least damage possible.

A typical outing always begins with the same routine. "Okay boys, we're here. Now remember, what kind of behaviour do I want?" "Good behaviour!" they chorus. "And what does that mean exactly?," I ask to clarify. "No running, no yelling, no screaming, no climbing, no hitting, no biting, no hair pulling, no eye-gouging, no spitting…" Simple right?

And yet, on most occasions, at least one of them surprises me with some kind of new-found mischief. Once, while making a quick stop to buy diapers for my two-year-old, my five-year-old mysteriously disappeared down the aisle, only to reappear made up with eyeshadow streaked across his cheeks. "I need my Viking costume," he exclaimed, as though this explained his behaviour.

So, I have begun to arm myself with candy.

You see, the power of candy lies not only in its bribe-like quality, bus also in its magnetic property. It draws the children close, thereby helping me to keep a more watchful eye on them. This is particularly useful when leaving a fun location such as a park or a friend's house. My cries of "time to go," which are usually met with "aww Mom, five more minutes," are now followed by the sound of three pairs of running feet. But only if accompanied by, "who wants candy?".

I'm not particularly proud of my behaviour. And I know it goes against the rules of good parenting, and probably good nutrition too. But it does work. And in my books, that's success. Sweet, sweet success!

Sweet Tooth is a Canadian expat living in Vienna.

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