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Sorry, But Bribery Is A Totally Effective Way Of Influencing Your Kid’s Behavior

You already know that babies will judge you for losing your temper, which seems pretty harsh coming from the tiny person who will scream if you give them the cut the avocado lengthwise instead of sideways. But thanks to a new study from Yale University, you can now bribe your way back onto their good side. Although you can’t return your kid, the results show they can totally be bought.

In a series of 2 experiments, researchers first introduced 160 children between ages 5 and 8 to 2 characters named Craig and Matt who would give them the stickers. When they were told that Craig is always mean and Matt is always nice, they were given the choice between taking 2 stickers from Craig or one from Matt. While a majority of children picked Matt when the difference was one sticker. As these margins increased and Craig offered more stickers (16 vs. one), kids stopped caring about if he was a terrible person, simply because … do you have any idea how much lunchbox real estate 16 stickers can handle?


Still, researchers weren’t exactly sure if participants were easy to bribe, or if they were trying to please experimenters. The study points out that children start caring about how people (and researchers) perceive them between between ages 3 and 5, which is weird because they clearly don’t care what you think. The second experiment looked at how 12 and 13-month olds reacted when receiving crackers from one of 2 puppets, either nice or mean. Much like the older kids, infants were more likely to warm up to the jerk the more crackers they offered up.

So, that cinches it: getting your kid to abandon their moral compass is about as challenging as taking crackers from a puppet. Whether you act on this knowledge depends on your own moral compass. Or how many people are staring daggers into your back while your kid melts down in public.

[H/T] New York Magazine