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The used car salesman of dads

Kelly and I were having a discussion the other evening about how it's cheap and sleazy to sell a toddler a bargain. It's too easy. Fish in a barrel. I had just tempted Cole out of the bathtub with a Chipotle burrito. I just sold him a junker using cheap financing.

The low road is giving your child the promise of dessert for eating his meal. I prefer to think grander these days.

Cole has just arrived at the age where he can be reasoned with. I'm a highly intelligent, rational adult in my 30's...it's just not a fair fight. I have access to everything he could possibly want, make the rules, and punish him for breaking them.

Then you have Kelly's mom. Leda was trying to chew on some beet leaves out of the vegetable box in the kitchen during the grandma visit and Kelly's mom stopped her saying, in passing, that beet leaves were poisonous. Tone. You're missing the tone, dear reader. I nearly believed her. Then I thought about it and concluded it couldn't possibly be true...but I did have to stop and think! Genius.

Our kids want whole wheat toast with peanut butter or fresh fruit for a snack, usually. And I mostly attribute this to not using the old bait method where parents try to smile and tell children to eat their veggies because they're yummy. Toddlers aren't stupid.

Now, on the other hand, when your toddler sees you sneak a snack from the kitchen for yourself and it happens to be a sliced apple and some yogurt tell them they can't have any. Seriously. Try to go off by yourself.

Worst case scenario, you're eating a healthy snack. Best case scenario, you're BOTH eating a healthy snack. Don't give your kids a banana while you're eating potato chips.

Even more, if you're going to go the used car salesman route, do it big. Don't make small bargains. Make large bargains with awesome outcomes for tedious things then follow through. My new stance with my kids is that you don't need to lie when brutal, brutal honesty can be just as effective.

No, I'm not giving you this soda, but if you sit down and eat this pasta I'll probably let you watch another 30 minutes of cartoons. I'm just setting the table so that when he's 10 and we're in the toy aisle I can look him in the eye, tell him he may not have a skateboard, but if he shuts up until the checkout I'll probably get him a candy bar.

My hope is that by the time he's 16, he'll be ready to outwit me in a persuasive argument about why he should be allowed to borrow the car because he gets decent grades, has been spending a lot of time reading to the elderly lately, and promised to drop his sister off at tuba practice on the way to meeting his friends.

Parents, our job is to turn 'em into thinking adults capable of walking onto a car lot and realizing "I got this because it's exactly like home." If they can learn to see through your BS, they're going to do just fine in the world.

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