Bribery and Brainwashing · 4 September 2011

It is scary when my wife, The Mindboggling Mrs. Miyoshi, agrees with parenting wisdom dispensed by the lead pastor at our church. The reason it is scary is because of the caveats our pastor gives, “You’ll never see that in a parenting book,” or “I am not planning to write a parenting book.” Now if my wife was to write a parenting book, she would need a clever caveat as well. After all, bribery and brainwashing are her two favorite and most effective bits of wisdom.

Both the pastor and my wife believe in bribery as a way to get the kids to do what they should want to do in the first place. Obey. I liken it to training dogs. When the kids sit up straight, they get a treat. When they roll into bed and pretend to sleep, they get a treat. The Mindboggling Mrs. Miyoshi says that bribery is a great tool for getting the kids to do what they are supposed to do. I hope she still believes it when the kids start sitting up on their haunches with their hands held up like paws and panting with their tongues hanging out the sides of their mouths begging for doggy treats.

In reality, the problem with bribery is not that I fear the kids will start acting like trained dogs. As a matter of fact, I would be happy if they would work for dog biscuits. The problem is that the stakes get higher as the kids age. While they will work for food now, they will want cold hard cash later on. They might not say it like that, but wanting video games and electronic systems is the same. And when they ask “What’s in it for me?” when asked to do some simple task, I cannot help but see movie images of thugs “leaning on” the shopkeeper for protection money.

Then again, Thing 1 turned out okay and he was bribed. He never really asked for protection money or any money for that matter. The Mindboggling Mrs. Miyoshi just kept him supplied with soda and he did little jobs for her all the time. And the only time he looked like a movie thug was when he wore those tank top underwear shirts and had a toothpick hanging out of his mouth. I am just glad he never said, “Fuhgeddaboudit.”

The other piece of wisdom in The Mindboggling Mrs. Miyoshi’s book of parenting is brainwashing.

The brainwashing starts out early in our house and it is not at all bad. My wife had the boys recite our phone number and address while in the car. When they got it right, held out their hands, and panted with their tongues hanging out the side of their mouths, they got doggy treats. The kids all knew all their emergency information including their parents’ names (not just Mom and Dad) in no time.

That innocent brain training is still used in brainwashing the kids about other stuff too. The Mindboggling Mrs. Miyoshi constantly asks the boys, “Who is your favorite girl?” All they really get for the right answer to that question (“You, Mom!”) is a big smile accompanied by a hug and kiss (if we are not in the car where much of the brainwashing takes place), but they do not mind missing out on the doggy treat. They just love to please their mom.

I must admit that the brainwashing has worked out okay so far. My wife would send off Thing 1 with the phrase, “Be a good boy,” which she later shortened to, “BAG B,” and he has been. He has turned out to be a pretty good young man, and I am sure that the short sendoff was part of it.

We have three good kids. And for better or worse, I suppose they are taking to our training just as we did to that of our parents.

I am not sure if I like bribery and brainwashing as perhaps the most effective tricks in my wife’s arsenal of parenting, even though they seem to work. But I am sure I will still be scared and cringe a bit when my wife agrees with the parenting wisdom of our pastor.

© 2011 Michael T. Miyoshi

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