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  • The Art of Persuasive Rhetoric

    October 8, 2008

    Last night, on the way home from soccer, Sean asked if we could stop by Sonic and get a peach iced tea. 

    I love peach iced tea and Sonic, but I just wasn’t in the mood to stop.  I was tired and I was anxious to get home, get dinner going and get back to the joy of scraping wallpaper. So I said no. 

    “But I really want to go to Sonic! Besides, I never get my way!” he whined and then he added a Harrumph! to emphasize that he never gets his way.  Normally my rule is that if you are whining the answer is automatically no. Add a disdainful Harrumph! and you got bigger problems than No.  Normally no means no with me but I decided to push back at him a little bit instead.  

    “Oh really?” I asked skeptically. “Give me an example of when you didn’t get your way.” 

    He immediately popped off two examples. 

    “Okay, give me two more!” I said. 

    No, not really. I didn’t say that. 

    But when we came to a stop light, I turned to him in the backseat and asked him if he could think of a way to change my mind about going to Sonic. 

    “I really really want to go.  Please? Pretty pleeeeeez can we go to Sonic?” he pleaded in little boy falsetto. I could tell from his big blue sincere eyes that he really really wanted to go which made it that much harder to say no.  But he hadn’t said anything to change my mind. He hadn’t said anything that he hadn’t already said, he just said it more nicely. 

    I told him that I really appreciated his courtesy and not whining, but that he had to think about it differently. He had to figure out a way to persuade me to go to Sonic by appealing to my heart. I told him that in life, no one cares if you never get your way or if you really really want something. In life, you need to persuade people to your point of view by using words and facts and you have to figure out how to do that. 

    Perhaps inspired by the presidential debates, I have been thinking more and more about how I want Sean to learn how to use words to persuade others, to make a case for his point of view.  I want him to become adept in the art of rhetoric because it will be another arrow in his quiver of life skills. 

    As we continued towards home, not a sound was heard from the backseat. 

    “Mom, I’ve been an extra good boy this week,” he finally said.  “I’ve helped you tear off wallpaper. I’d really like togo to Sonic to get a peach tea, but if you don’t want to, that’s okay.  I’ll still help you tear off wallpaper.” 

    A well-reasoned argument.  I was persuaded.  

    So we went to Sonic and got a peach tea.


    1. Melissa says:

      I love that he offered up a good reason but had the character to extend that, even if you disagreed, he would still help. What a great job you are doing! 🙂

      October 8th, 2008 at 12:32 am

    2. Jenny says:

      such a neat kid!

      October 8th, 2008 at 12:38 am

    3. Krista says:

      Wow, impressive! Good on ya!
      (I’m taking notes!) Oh, and I totally quoted your economic bailout plan to my mom tonight! 😉

      October 8th, 2008 at 12:45 am

    4. Clemntine says:

      Now that there is some mighty fine parenting. Good work, AM.

      October 8th, 2008 at 1:19 am

    5. Minnesotamom says:

      Hmm…I’m still digesting this. I think persuasive rhetoric is good as long as it’s based in truth. Far too often in this election I’ve seen candidates spouting rhetoric, but they have no case built (at least, they’re both inconsistent as far as I can see) as to why we should believe their rhetoric.

      I’m glad that Sean made an argument based on his actions and character with a recent example of how he has proved himself. Maybe he’ll get a write-in vote.

      October 8th, 2008 at 1:19 am

    6. chickadee@afamiliarpath says:

      that was good thinking. tearing off wallpaper is hard work–even if he did enjoy it.

      October 8th, 2008 at 2:10 am

    7. JanMary, N Ireland says:

      A chip of the old block!

      October 8th, 2008 at 3:05 am

    8. mama speak says:

      Very good AM! I allow the girls one piece of candy a day, but hey have to earn it. When/If they ask for it I ask them if they’ve “earned it” since candy is a “treat” not a snack. Usually I end up getting a 5 min worth of room clean up out of it, so it’s been a good ploy. I like your approach & I’m totally stealing it so I can work on Big’s whining.

      October 8th, 2008 at 3:22 am

    9. Sam says:

      ha – a president in training!!!!

      October 8th, 2008 at 5:39 am

    10. Melissa says:

      I’m taking notes too – that was pretty good.

      October 8th, 2008 at 6:29 am

    11. Debbie says:

      Nice job Sean. And thanks for the morning smile!

      October 8th, 2008 at 7:22 am

    12. Kim says:

      That boy has a future! I would have headed for Sonic too 🙂

      October 8th, 2008 at 7:29 am

    13. Mary says:

      You are building memories…..”Going to Sonic” may always remind him that his mother taught good values!

      October 8th, 2008 at 7:54 am

    14. Theresa (YewNorkBabe) says:

      Great job teaching him about the art of proper communication. I bet he leans towards becoming an attorney some day.

      October 8th, 2008 at 7:56 am

    15. Tracy says:

      You learned this much earlier than I started to learn it. We tell the tween and teen “Persuade me” if there is something that they really want and our initial response is no (or even if they think it’s going to be no). The answer isn’t always yes in the end, (sometimes it’s yes, sometimes it’s no, sometimes it’s “If this, then…) but they have thought it out, we’ve thought it out, and I think it’s a better decision in the end. Plus no whining or angry feelings. They like that we listen, we like that they talk! Usually an all around win win.

      October 8th, 2008 at 8:09 am

    16. Monica @ WriterChic says:

      You never fail to inspire me to be a great mom like you are to Sean. Thanks for the post!

      October 8th, 2008 at 8:18 am

    17. katherine says:

      what a great boy you have! he seems introspective and sensitive. i love it!

      we call that making an appeal. our kids won’t be “allowed” to whine. they can provide new information, like sean did, and perhaps we’ll reconcider the situation. we’re hopeful that will kill a lot of whining issues. at least, it’s been a big life-saver for our friends with teens who taught us the process!

      October 8th, 2008 at 8:20 am

    18. Iota says:

      Blimey. What a mature kid. I see him as presidential candidate in years to come.

      October 8th, 2008 at 8:24 am

    19. Sarah at themommylogues says:

      My 5 yr old could write a book on the subject. Before I even finish telling her no, she’s right there with her next reason. We call her The Negotiator.

      October 8th, 2008 at 8:36 am

    20. Margie says:

      Boy, if he’s this good now, at four, just wait. You may regret this. Just kidding, but he is awesome. And so are you.

      October 8th, 2008 at 8:38 am

    21. Cyndi says:

      Good job Sean!! (And good job, Mom.)

      Can I have a peach tea, too?

      October 8th, 2008 at 8:38 am

    22. Gwendolyn says:

      I don’t think I could have turned that one down, either. :o)

      October 8th, 2008 at 8:48 am

    23. Carole says:

      Aw, your son is awesome! I was rooting for him, I’m glad he thought up such a great answer! 🙂

      October 8th, 2008 at 8:56 am

    24. Antique Mommy says:

      Mama Speak,

      You and I have been blog friends for three years now, so you know I’m no parenting role model (no helmet, hanging off the oven) and hardly qualified to offer anyone parenting advice. But that won’t stop me.

      As far as the whining, be clear with the kiddos that if they are whining the answer is automatically NO — nothing they can say while whining will get them what they want. And don’t ever give in. Whenever Sean uses a tone of voice I deem inapproprirate, I tell him to go sit on his bed until he can speak to me properly. He usually corrects himself in a hurry. (Key here: corrects himself)

      I have tender tiny little ears drums with no tolerance for whining, so my no whining policy is primarily for my own comfort and self preservation. And also so that he will learn how to more easily make his way in the world.

      October 8th, 2008 at 9:06 am

    25. Rocks In My Dryer says:

      That was some fine parenting, right there. Good girl.

      October 8th, 2008 at 9:31 am

    26. Kai says:

      What a well thought out and very well delivered argument!! WOW!

      October 8th, 2008 at 9:45 am

    27. Tara says:

      Now THAT’s what I’m talking about! Just this morning I had a not so stellar moment where my three year old simply could not do what I wanted him to do because he was cold (what I wanted him to do was to get out of the bathtub from which the water had already been drained after his bath). He pitched a holy hissy fit like I have not seen in ANY of my children, EVER! A well placed disciplinary measure later and voila! Good Toby was back.

      What this has to do with your marvelous parenting of Sean I have no idea, except to compliment you and hope my Toby ends up a halfway decent citizen despite my parenting!

      October 8th, 2008 at 10:00 am

    28. Michelle- This One's for the Girls says:

      Oh my word– that blessed my socks off. 🙂

      October 8th, 2008 at 10:06 am

    29. Stephanie says:

      He’s good =) That would have totally worked at my house…..

      October 8th, 2008 at 10:30 am

    30. Linda says:

      Oh. My. Goodness. That boy is just too precious!
      After that AM you really should take him another day as well! WOW!

      October 8th, 2008 at 10:42 am

    31. Kathy says:

      You and my father would have got along really well. Whenever my brother or I stepped over the line, he made us write essays so we’d have to think about what we’d done and figure out how we were going to rectify the situation. If you were too little to write, a drawn picture with an accompanying oral presentation was allowed. It took a while to do this, so we had to sit and reflect upon our sins a long time. I think it also gave my father a chance to cool down and deal with us in a rational frame of mind.

      It worked another way too; if we thought something was unfair, we could go through the same process of writing an essay, with a proposed solution to the problem. So, no whining, just reasoned arguments for or against something, and proposed solutions to problems.

      October 8th, 2008 at 10:47 am

    32. Paulette says:

      With a mom like you the boy cannot go wrong! What a great lesson to teach Sean, you have allot of the parenting styles I taught. Sean is precious, and so is his Antique mama!

      October 8th, 2008 at 10:48 am

    33. Antique Mommy says:

      Paulette, You know what? A kid can always go wrong. I think parents can do all the right things and really stay on top of stuff, but ultimately a child will take a path of his own choosing.

      Having said that, we try to do all the right things, we try to minimize negative influences, we try to really stay on top of stuff, we try to make sure Sean knows he is loved and wanted and a source of joy in our lives. And then we pray like crazy over him. Then, having done all we can do, we leave the rest to God.

      October 8th, 2008 at 10:53 am

    34. Denise says:

      Do you offer parenting lessons? I’d like to sign myself and my husband up please. I LOVE how you went beyond saying ‘no’ and challenged him to think of a way to persuade you to say yes. How do you do that???

      October 8th, 2008 at 10:56 am

    35. Gretchen says:


      And here I start whining back…Tell me that perfect parenting isn’t always your first response, please. 🙂

      Pleeeease (insert whine here!)

      Love the “I want him to become adept in the art of rhetoric because it will be another arrow in his quiver of life skills.” Now that’s g.o.o.d.

      October 8th, 2008 at 11:02 am

    36. Antique Mommy says:

      Oh heavens no Gretchen! Here’s what I just emailed to Denise:

      Oh Denise, you are too kind. I fail at this mothering gig a lot. It’s getting easier as he gets older though, I will say that. Yesterday I was just looking to take a situation that was loaded with sour feelings and make something good out of it, something beyond the standard “No, Because I said so (repeat 20 times)” Having said that, I think it’s really important to teach the kiddos how to express themselves, how to win friends and influence people, if you will. I stink at rhetoric unless I’m hiding behind my computer. 🙂


      October 8th, 2008 at 11:06 am

    37. Lori Drumm says:

      Now that boy has a very bright future!

      October 8th, 2008 at 11:12 am

    38. Angie says:

      That’s awesome! Sign that boy up for classical school right away… rhetoric is a staple. 🙂

      October 8th, 2008 at 11:21 am

    39. Lisa @ The Preacher's Wife says:

      That is classic. What year will he be eligible to run for Prez?

      October 8th, 2008 at 11:29 am

    40. apathy lounge says:

      So he still thinks tearing off wallpaper is fun? Even without rewarding him with peach tea? I think you’ve done Tom Sawyer proud.

      October 8th, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    41. zoom says:

      I did not know Sonic had peach iced tea!!?? How did I miss this!

      Excellent job my friend in helping a little boy become a thoughtful man.

      October 8th, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    42. Kathy says:

      AM, you inspire me. May God richly bless you, AD, and Sean. And may we have a president’s mom as guided by HIS hand as you. Peach tea from Sonic rocks!

      October 8th, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    43. Emily says:

      That’s some good advice! Thanks!

      October 8th, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    44. Tater Mama says:

      Oh, if I knew how to send one, I’d send a Sonic gift card to you and Sean for this precious post! 🙂 I’m filing all of these parenting posts away, as we have a 2-year-old son, and I love the way you handle all things little boy!

      October 8th, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    45. Rosheeda says:

      An ordinary moment becomes an extraordinary one. Gotta love it.

      October 8th, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    46. Lisa W. says:

      Oh. My. Is he really only four?? What a thoughtful child. I love your little guy, internet distance notwithstanding.

      October 8th, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    47. Faerylandmom says:

      If only I could be a mommy like you…I just resort to “because I said so” way too often. You make way too much sense…


      October 8th, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    48. Cyndi says:

      Oh, you have no idea how this post just bolstered our own parenting – we’re strict about the apologies and I got one of THOSE looks when I asked if mine apologized for a small issue at school. It’s tough to do it right, but it sure pays off – look at his excellent skills already. GO, Sean! And the Sonic folks are gonna love you 😉

      October 8th, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    49. Cyndi says:

      oops, I just noticed there are two Cyndi’s

      October 8th, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    50. tom says:

      Brilliant! He just gets more brilliant with each day. I stand in utter awe.

      October 8th, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    51. tom says:

      …of both of you – since I wasn’t clear on that.

      October 8th, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    52. amyB says:

      I’m sure other people can relate… but from reading your archives of this blog, reading stories like this of the little baby, turned toddler, turned tiny REAL PERSON, warms my heart!!

      He is so adorable! I saw we need a voice recording to hear his rhetoric!

      October 8th, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    53. Nate's Mom says:

      Excellent parenting! I’m really gonna have to remember this one. Thanks for sharing.

      Nate’s Mom

      October 8th, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    54. nicole says:

      Excellent argument on his part. I would have to agree that he earned his tea.

      October 8th, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    55. Lori says:

      Good for you! Great life lesson and kudos to you for going back…even when you were tired. Woo hoo, AM!

      October 8th, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    56. The Roost says:

      That was wise teaching mom!

      October 8th, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    57. Yvonne says:

      You are such a good mom – I want to start all over so I can get it right second time around. And that Sean – what a treasure!

      October 8th, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    58. Stretch Mark Mama says:

      Yeah, well, everybody…let’s not forget “the helmet” or maybe “the oven.”

      {big smirk}

      Child #2 and child # 3 of mine are perfecting their charm when they get in trouble. Child # 1 (King of Drama and Fighting Back) will say to me, “Should they DO that?!? It’s so… so… WRONG!”

      And then we have a nice discussion about how charm is not always a bad thing. Much better than whining, I’d say.

      October 8th, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    59. k&c's mom says:

      That persuasive speech deserved something extra to go with that peach tea! I’m impressed!

      October 8th, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    60. Beck says:

      The blogosphere has made me rather sad that I don’t live in the right country to visit Sonic. What’s with that, Sonic Franchise people?

      October 8th, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    61. bea says:

      The amount of abstract thought your boy is capable of just blows me away.

      October 8th, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    62. Judi says:

      Hope I live long enough to vote for Sean!!

      October 9th, 2008 at 12:38 am

    63. Adrian says:

      What a great thing to teach your kids. I think I’ll work on this with my guys as well. Blake really needs to learn how to express himself a little better. Those are great life skills. I wish half the managers I’ve had could express themselves a little bit better.

      October 9th, 2008 at 1:58 am

    64. Cheryl says:

      Love this! When our kids were growing up, we always told them “I can’t understand you when you whine. Please come back when you can speak to me in a normal voice.” It was always effective. The whining stopped, and they had a little time to gather their thoughts and think about what they’d really like to say. We now have two young men who have excellent communication skills.

      October 9th, 2008 at 7:30 am

    65. Nett says:

      Yeah Sean!!!!
      Way to go man!!
      Your Mommy is the best and she’s SO good at teaching you.

      October 9th, 2008 at 10:18 am

    66. Jenni D. says:

      I’ve just got to tell you how excited I am that Madison, Wisconsin is finally getting a Sonic! We’ve lived here for 8 years and the local networks have had Sonic commercials for 8 years, but no Sonic! And now we’re getting one! Did I mention that I am excited?

      October 9th, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    67. Karen {simply a musing blog} says:

      Oh, now that was just brilliant. Great parenting moment and so glad the student passed the test. 🙂

      October 11th, 2008 at 11:08 am

    68. Soleil says:

      Aw, what a smart little boy! A great, “well reasoned” argument!!

      October 12th, 2008 at 12:20 am

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