Outsmarted, Snips And Snails

The Art of Persuasive Rhetoric

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.

68 thoughts on “The Art of Persuasive Rhetoric

  1. 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! 🙂

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

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

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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???

  15. Wow…

    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.

  16. 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. 🙂


  17. 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.

  18. 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!

  19. 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!

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

  21. 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 😉

  22. 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!

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

    Nate’s Mom

  24. 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!

  25. 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.

  26. Hee.
    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?

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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?

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