i bribe my baby to eat. sorry not sorry.

Two year old eating cakeMadeline has always been on the petite end of the spectrum. At one year old, she was only in the 10th percentile for weight. At her well-child check up, our pediatrician suggested two things- 1. We try to get calories into her however we could. 2. We keep a food journal on her eating habits.

So, being the obedient parents we are, we offered Maddie Pediasure shakes, we cooked her veggies in olive oil and butter, we even served up the double whammy- vanilla Haagen Daaz ice cream drizzled with a lemon olive oil- for dessert. And we journaled religiously for two weeks. What we found is that Madeline consumes her food in small portions, frequently. She rarely finishes a dinner. She is what some might call a grazer or a snacker. I just call her a toddler hell-bent on exerting her independence. You do you.

Over the last year, I’ve figured out a few tricks that have helped Maddie develop healthier eating habits. I discovered that when I cut off afternoon snacking at 3:30PM, dinners were much more likely to be consumed. Likewise with water, which we don’t offer during mealtime until after she has made a dent in her plate. But hands down, the most effective way to get our thriving two year old to eat a real meal? Bribery.

It’s no secret that Madeline loves her some seltzy tea aka seltzer mixed with a splash of juice. And we have started using this knowledge to our advantage.

Case in point: For as long as I can remember, Madeline has pushed meat to the side of her plate, not attempting a single bite. She knows, intuitively, she doesn’t like it, whatever it may be. But as soon as a half-full glass of seltzy tea happens to show up on the table, that same little girl can convince herself to finish every morsel of meat on her plate- be it pulled pork, breaded chicken, steak or fish sticks. She shoves the food into her mouth faster than you can say, “Toddlers is crazy.” We reward excellent eating with a few swigs of her coveted beverage. The contrary is also made clear on the upfront- that she does not have to eat the food on her plate, but if she doesn’t, she won’t be sipping from the big girl cup. It is her choice. And she has time and time again chosen to eat and drink. Parents- 1. Madeline- 0.

Offering up an incentive to eat has made mealtimes so much easier. We aren’t stressed out, trying to force bites into our tiny tot. Maddie isn’t unhappy, because if she’s actually “not hungee,” as she sometimes claims, she is not made to eat. There are less tantrums, less waste and less dogs underfoot waiting for scraps to be swiped to the floor.

Now I’m not saying bribery is the answer. I’m just saying bribery. is. the. answer. The numbers don’t lie, guys. At her two year check up, we learned Madeline gained five pounds in the last year and jumped up to the 26th percentile for weight!

Bribery: its not just for crooks and politicians anymore!

They say that it takes trying something you don’t like multiple times before you learn to enjoy it. I’m hoping Maddie’s exposure to (protein and calorie rich) foods she’d otherwise shun, will help her acquire a taste for them, thus eliminating the need for the bribe. So either that will happen or this will all come back to bite me in the bottom. I’ll let you know in ten years!


  1. This is the only way my children eat anything that doesn’t include weird food dyes and sugar. Bribery! It can go a long way!

Leave a Comment