Persuade; Don’t Push

When I rented a car in Arizona last week, the lady at the desk was pretty persuasive.  She asked me how much insurance coverage I wanted, and when I declined any, she said, “Okay, no problem.  Of course, our $12 per day charge is far less than what you’ll pay for a deductible.”  Only $12?  I was tempted – but I resisted.

“We’ve got you down for a standard car – would you like to upgrade to a full-sized car for only $11.99 more per day?”  Again I declined, citing better gas mileage as a factor  “You know, there’s not really much difference between the mileage of a standard Nissan Cube and a full-sized Ford Taurus,”  she said, not looking up from her computer.  A Nissan Cube?  I knew my husband wouldn’t like that, and I was tempted to switch, but I held firm one more time.

Then she hit me with the prepay-to-refill question.  I’d heard the spiel before:  buy a full tank now and save about two dollars a gallon over what I’d pay if I returned it less than full without prepaying.  I always refuse this offer, promising to refill before returning, but this time she almost persuaded me when she said, “You probably know that because of safety issues, there aren’t any gas  stations within a mile of the airport.”  With great resolve I turned her down one more time, but as I walked away from the counter I was second-guessing myself.

This woman used no pressure, no scare tactics, no threats.  I was disarmed by her offhand manner, her attitude of  “It doesn’t matter to me either way, but you should know. . .”  What a great technique for dealing with teens!

Suppose your daughter has a big science test this week.  You could try nagging and threatening:  “You’d better be studying for that test!  If you get another low grade, I’m going to ground you until the end of the quarter!”  Or you could try a less pushy, more subtle approach:  “How are you going to celebrate when your science test is over?” or maybe “Guess I’d better start saving my dollars for your A in biology, huh?”

By using a less threatening approach, you may not get the immediate response you’d like – “Hey!  I’m off to study for my biology test!” – but you will have planted a seed and provided a way for her to saunter off and pretend she was planning on studying all along.   Mission accomplished; conflict avoided.

My rental car wasn’t a Nissan Cube; it was a Nissan Altima, which is what I drive at home.  I didn’t get into any accidents, and I was able to fill up the tank only ten miles from the airport.  It was a good thing I hadn’t let her change my mind.

But I did hear her voice in my head all weekend long. . .

Don’t Tell the Acorn Too Much!

A parent sought me out at church a couple of weeks ago, wanting advice on how to get her daughter to be more polite.  “She interrupts me all the time, and she never says ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ unless I remind her to.”  She continued, “My husband just laughs and says she’s me all over again.  Which is actually true!”  I cautioned her not to say that in front of her daughter, because she would be giving her permission to continue being rude.

I’ve heard it often at the conference table:  “Of course, I was never very good in math, either, so I can’t expect him to do any better.”  “I’m afraid there’s not much hope for her; I always got in trouble for talking, too.”  I may smile and nod my head, but I really want to put my finger to my lips and hiss, “Shhhhh!  Stop staying that!”

A parent’s motive behind saying such things may be to reassure the teen that he understands because he’s been there, but such comments can have a negative effect.  A student who is struggling in math, or who doesn’t like math, has just been given license to stop trying.

In the same way, a student whose constant talking is disruptive has no reason to stop.  In fact, the pleasure gained from being “just like Mom” may lead to more talking.

It’s often amusing to see how much your children are like you (it’s even more amusing for their grandparents), but it’s important to stop and think about the consequences before mentioning the flaws you share.  Even if you qualify your observation with, “. . .but that doesn’t mean you have to act like me,” you’re still offering an excuse for undesirable behavior.

A better idea is to notice the similarities but comment about them to another adult, out of your teen’s hearing.  You can shake your heads and share a laugh together about the acorn not falling far from the oak tree without granting permission to repeat your mistakes.

And then you can call your mother and tell her that her wish came true – you did wind up with a child just like you!