Laura on Life... Persuading kids
I was asked not long ago to give a speech about how to persuade. It was something I had learned in my Toastmasters Club and I was to share that knowledge with another group. I had to be sure who my audience was because the principles I would shar...
I was asked not long ago to give a speech about how to persuade. It was something I had learned in my Toastmasters Club and I was to share that knowledge with another group. I had to be sure who my audience was because the principles I would share with business people would not be the same if I was talking to a group of parents.
Parents have to play by a different set of rules, and unfortunately, those rules change by the day and by the child. The only thing set in stone is the fact that nothing is set in stone.
One of the components of a good persuasive speech is logic. However, that's only if you're speaking to rational people. Obviously, logic doesn't work on a 4-year old who doesn't want to eat his vegetables.
"Now eat your vegetables, so that you will be healthy and strong." Did that logic ever work for any parent?
The only thing that ever worked for me - and it only worked a couple of times - is: "If you eat your carrots, you can have a popsicle after dinner."
However, this didn't work with peas, broccoli, or the one child that has had a lifelong hatred of anything remotely healthy. Sometimes they would eat broccoli if I had them imagine they were a giant eating a tree. After one tree, it was usually decided that giants only eat cupcakes and people.
Peas could only be choked down with a cherry-flavored drink and some threat that included an extended stay in a hard chair facing a wall. Admittedly, I wasn't very good at enforcing those threats, so needless to say, I simply don't cook peas anymore.
So logic doesn't work for parents, but bribery, cajoling, threats and capitulation only work slightly better.
Another component of a good persuasive speech is your audience's opinion of you. You cannot persuade some one to do something if they think you are manipulative, dress like a clown, and smell like yesterday's diapers.
Okay, no. It's beginning to dawn on me why I can't persuade my children to do anything. Their opinion of me is probably somewhere between a Nazi interrogator and Gomer Pyle. You can see it in a toddler's eyes even before she can talk. You know exactly the moment your precious baby has decided you're a bonehead. She takes a deep breath and suddenly you're covered in whatever you've just spooned into her little mouth.
Then they take their barely developed fine motor skills and catapult the rest of their meal into your lap. "Okay, he doesn't like strained squash... I get it!"
This innate knowledge of their parents' incompetence is carried with them and further exposed to us when they become teenagers and it becomes harder for them to be so understanding of your shortcomings.
Especially when, odd as it may seem, you tell them they have to pay for their own gas. You must be stupid because, otherwise, you'd know that if they pay for their own gas, they won't have enough money to pay for the things they want to buy.
Not getting them a cell phone is considered the ultimate in parental ignorance: "Okay, but won't you feel like an idiot when someone abducts me and I can't call home?"
So yeah, your child's opinion of you will not help to persuade them to do anything.
Emotion is the third component in a good persuasive argument, but you are not supposed to be emotional when dealing with children. You are only supposed to respond to their emotions.
According to today's child-rearing experts, you're not supposed to get angry, or let your child see when you are sad. So how do you use emotion to persuade a child?
I employ a hefty dose of guilt.
"Eat your vegetables. Think about all those starving children in (fill in the country of choice)." No logic here.
"Take your time. If you're late for school again, your teacher will get fired, the school will have to close, and then all those kids without an education will have to work in a coal mine. They'll get black lung disease, and die with no insurance to support their eight kids. Do you want to be responsible for that?"
When using a persuasive argument on children, not needing to use logic can be very beneficial.
You can reach Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org Or visit her website www.lauraonlife.com for more columns and info about her books.