Parenting Made Easier with Influence

Today, December 6, is our daughter Abigail’s 15th birthday. I can still remember looking at her in the crib thinking, “I can’t believe she’s been with us a hundred days.” Wow, does time fly! In just over three years she’ll be heading off to college and no matter where you are in the world you might hear me crying because I’ll miss seeing her every day.

To say that raising Abigail has been one of the biggest joys in my life would be an understatement. The only person luckier than me will be the man who spends the rest of his life with her. She is beautiful, fun, intelligent, has a great sense of humor, thinks deeply, is athletic and so much more. Jane and I have been very fortunate because for the most part she’s been an easy kid to raise. However, I also know some of that ease has been due to good parenting and that’s the focus of this week’s post.

I’m no child psychologist or parenting expert by any means but I have learned enough about psychology to effectively use the principles of influence in the process of raising Abigail. I believe that’s been incredibly helpful so what I’d like to do is share a few things I’ve tried and hopefully it will stimulate some ideas for you.

Liking – It’s not our job to be Abigail’s friend but it’s no secret that if your kids like you they’ll be more apt to do what you ask. We go out of our way to make sure she knows how much she’s loved and that certainly helps us as parents. For a really good parenting idea check out my post on something we call Special Day.

Reciprocity – Most parents give kids an allowance and we’re no exception. An allowance however doesn’t engage reciprocity because it’s a reward, not a gift. To engage this principle you need to be the first to act.

One way I effectively used reciprocity this summer was to give Abigail a raise in her allowance before I asked anything of her. I didn’t say, “If you’ll cut the grass I’ll give you a raise,” because she would have declined (she hates cutting the grass!). What I did was give her a raise then about a week later asked her to cut the grass. She protested a little until I said, “Abigail, I gave you a raise in your allowance and didn’t ask you to do anything. Can’t you help me out?” She cut the grass.

Consensus – This one is always at play with teenagers but most of the time parents are fighting against it because of “peer pressure” and Jane and I are no different. Rather than go into detail on on how we’ve handle the pressure to conform I’ll refer you to the post I wrote on helping teens deal with peer pressure.

Authority – It’s always good to have an outside expert come to your aid. One situation that comes to mind is eating dinner together. It’s become all too common for families to not eat dinner together and when they do it’s often in front of the television. I won’t tell you we eat together every night but we do most evenings because we know it’s a great way to stay connected. Referring to a simple fact from an expert, like most happy families eat together, helps deflect the common question, “Can’t we eat in front of the TV?”Here’s a funny, but not totally ethical, story. When Abigail was very little she didn’t like certain foods and our pleading with her didn’t help. One day Jane acted like Abigail’s doctor was on the phone. As soon as she said, “Abigail, Dr. Klinger says you need to eat your vegetables,” she ate them. Not ethical but effective because even as a little girl she knew he was an authority.
Consistency – I spend a lot of time talking to Abigail and have ever since I can remember. When something we ask her to do goes well I make sure to point that out because it acts as a mile marker down the road. The reason I do that is because it makes the next request easier. For example, I can say, “Abigail, you know I love you right? And you know mom and I want you to be happy and have fun, right? Last time we asked you to do [fill in the blank] it turned out well, didn’t it?” See where I’m going with this? I’ve built on a series of consistent “Yes” responses to get her buy-in. She knows we love her, that we want her to enjoy life and know we’ve given good advice in the past. Reminding her of those things makes it easier for her to say “Yes” to whatever we’re asking of her currently.
Scarcity – We try not to pull the threat lever too often but that is a legitimate use of scarcity. As parents we’ve all had to say, “If you don’t [fill in the blank] you’ll lose the privilege to [fill in the blank].” I do think effectively using the other principles of influence greatly reduces the need to have those kinds of tough talks with your kids. One area I was able to use scarcity was with club volleyball last year. Abigail wasn’t big on the idea of playing but I let her know if she didn’t there was probably no way she’d make the high school team. Knowing she was going to a new school where she didn’t know anyone we all agreed being on the volleyball team would be a good way to start the high school experience. Although she would have rather done things other than club volleyball she went ahead and played.
Please don’t think that using the principles is a surefire guarantee to hear “Yes” every time because it’s not. What I can tell you with confidence is that your children will say “Yes” more often if you effectively use the principles of influence – and all of this is backed by science and the understanding of human psychology. I encourage you to give it a try. It’s made our lives easier and I know it can do the same for you.PS The reason for the 4:38 AM post this week is because that’s exactly when Abigail came into the world 15 years ago. Happy Birthday Abigail, Love Dad!!
Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.


1 reply
  1. Tali Berzins
    Tali Berzins says:

    Wonderful article.

    "One way I effectively used reciprocity this summer was to give Abigail a raise in her allowance before I asked anything of her."

    If companies would use some of this, they may get more our of their employees. Seems simple enough.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.