I bribed my child with gumballs

Gumball machine

Image by gwilmore via Flickr

While M a selective eater, his list of possible breakfast items is fairly broad – waffles, pancakes, chocolate croissants, bagels with cream cheese and cereal.

When M has cereal for breakfast, he likes it dry or with lots of milk. Swimming in milk. The other day, he was half-way through a bowl of multi-grain Cheerios with milk and he asked for more milk.

But there wasn’t any more. The carton was empty.

We had forgotten to get more. And it was only 7:45  – too early to go next door and borrow a cup from our neighbours (they have teenagers who don’t have to be at school until 9am).

M took another bite of cereal and announced he was full. For M, “I’m full” is generally code for something else – “I don’t want to eat anymore,” “I’ve found something more interesting to do,” ” I don’t care for the menu.” In this case, however, “I’m full.” meant “This cereal is too dry.” (there was still milk in the bowl, just not enough).

Every morning, after he has finished his breakfast, M takes his meds for his ADHD and anxiety. While they help him better manage his behaviour, the downside is that they suppress his appetite.  Most days, he doesn’t finish his lunch. So for M, breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.

I spent a couple of minutes unsuccessfully exhorting M to finish his cereal, when it comes to me:

I will give you a gumball for every spoonful you eat.

M loves gumballs. His class made gumball machines in December and he has spent hours since them playing with it.

So he starts eating.  At first, he tries to eat one or two Cheerios per spoonful. But we’ve played this game before and I insist on decent-sized mouthfuls.

By the time he has finished the bowl, we are up to 8 gumballs.

He tries to convince me to give him two more – as a”reward” for finishing. But 10 gumballs seems somehow excessive, so I stick to my guns and we settle 8. He finishes getting ready for school, stuffs his pockets with gumballs and heads out the door, more or less on time.

So am I a terrible parent? It all depends on how you look at it. Yes, he probably got a massive sugar high from all those gumballs. But he finished his breakfast, which meant he had a full stomach for most of the morning. I know from experience that this increases his chances of having a good day.

So we’ll stick with cereal …and the occasional side order of gumballs.


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