Getting to ‘Yes’

Getting to ‘Yes’

7 Habits of Highly Persuasive Toddlers

From TODAY’S PARENT, Sept 2007

Young soldiers, listen up. Your parents are busy. They really don’t have much time. Which means you have only seconds, not minutes, to grab their attention and get your message heard.

The good news is, that’s all you’re going to need, because you’re parents are fairly easy game. They’re low-functioning. They’re exhausted and weak and dizzy. They’re pleased, after an outing, just to have successfully found their car. Their eyes aren’t good enough to read the serial number on their iPod, no matter how close they hold it to their face. They’re losing words at about the same rate you’re gaining them. They are no match for you.

But they’re still human beings. And so they deserve to be treated with dignity. Be straight up. Proceed boldly and methodically. Here are seven tips to help you bend the current administration to your will:

1. Keep it simple. Eschew adjectives. Ditto for articles and conjunctions. Hemingway wrote a short story in six words (“Baby Carriage for Sale: Never Used”), and IBM boiled the company’s brand identity down to one (“Think”). A single concrete noun will often do. Example: “Fudge!”

2. Serve compliment sandwiches. A request slid between two “I love Mommys” is hard to ignore. Only the most stonehearted parent will even hesitate before caving.

3. Show, don’t tell. Timely gestures are more powerful than words. A dad de-pantsed from the foot of the bed at 5:30 a.m. is a dad who clearly understands that it’s time for the family to meet the day.

4. Stay on message. There are lots of things you may want right now, but pick one and stick to it. Think of your parents as short-order cooks, hired from the dregs of some government make-work program. You really don’t want to send more than one order at a time into that kitchen.

5. Isolate the sponge. Mom and Dad struggle mightily to maintain a united front. But it’s pretty obvious that one of them is soft. That’s the one you need to get to, alone, before he can confer with head office.

6. Show chutzpah. Spunk is a trait parents respect—it just makes good evolutionary sense. Parents may claim they want docile children, but deep down they know docile won’t fight for them years from now, when they’re lying in a vapour tent and a doctor is trying to unplug them to free up the bed.

7. Who’s the customer here? Remember that question and remember the answer: you are. Without your continuing patronage, this joint shuts down. The implicit threat that you might take your business elsewhere—say, to the Auerbachs’ next door, with the plum tree and plenty of room at the dinner table now that their own kids have left for college—should make your parents very attentive to your needs.

— Bruce Grierson and Jennifer Williams live in a maintenance shed behind the Vancouver house occupied by their two-year-old daughter, Madeline.

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