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How to manipulate your kids (Try at your own risk)

[Written by Sun-Sentinel Staff Writer Ian Katz]

Here’s some advice you’ll never find in any parenting book: Bribe your children and manipulate them by playing them off each other.

During dinner Monday night my wife and I were engaged in one of our all-too-frequent battles with Philip, 10, and Caroline, 7, to get them to try a new (to them) food. My wife had baked sweet potatoes and cut them into small, thin slices. Excellent stuff. No matter, neither kid would bite.

Philip launched into a discourse on how eating foods he doesn’t like makes him throw up. Here’s the Mensa-caliber debate that followed:

Me: “You’re so full of it. That’s never happened.”
Philip: “Yes it did, with corn.”
Caroline: “No, you didn’t throw it up. You just spit it out.”
Philip: “Well, I don’t want to try sweet potatoes because I don’t like sweet foods.”
Me: “How about chocolate and candy?”
Philip: “I mean real food, like meal food. And I don’t like the texture of sweet potatoes.”
Me: “Texture? You don’t even know what that word means.”
Philip (laughing): “Yes, I do.”

(It’s tough to get a big head in the Katz household. Recent paternal comment: “You? You were named student of the month? Who’d you pay off to get that?”)

I decided to work on Caroline first, though she is usually the more reluctant eater. I told her that if she ate just one small slice, I’d give her $2. She took the bait, and admitted that it didn’t taste bad.

Philip seemed a bit jealous, but refused to budge. Should I punish him? Sure, I could take away his Nintendo, but that would only anger him. It wouldn’t make him try the potatoes. Then I started to wonder: What would be, from Philip’s point of view, the worst possible outcome?

Only one thing could sway him -- pure, unadulterated sibling rivalry. So I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Eat a potato slice and you’ll get $2, I told him, slapping down the pair of singles. “But if you don’t, I’ll give Caroline those $2 on top of the $2 she already made, and she doesn’t even have to do anything else.”

It worked. Philip couldn’t bear to see his sister benefit from his potato phobia. He grabbed a silver-dollar sized slice, set it down on a napkin and began to address it as the enemy. “OK,” he said, focusing straight at it. “I don’t like you and you don’t like me.” He finished it off in a couple of bites.

“Hmm. Not bad,” he said, as he reached for another.

Categories: General (185)


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About the authors
Gretchen Day-Bryant has a son in high school and a daughter in middle school. She’s lived to tell about the struggles of juggling little kids and work.
Joy Oglesby has a preschooler...
Cindy Kent Fort Lauderdale mother of three. Her kids span in ages from teenager to 20s.
Rafael Olmeda and his wife welcomed their first son in Feb. 2009, and he's helping raise two teenage stepdaughters.
Lois Solomonlives with her husband and three daughters.
Georgia East is the parent of a five-year-old girl, who came into the world weighing 1 pound, 13 ounces.
Brittany Wallman is the mother of Creed, 15, and Lily, 7, and is married to a journalist, Bob Norman. She covers Broward County government, which is filled with almost as much drama as the Norman household. Almost.
Chris Tiedje is the Social Media Coordinator and the father of a 7-year-old girl, and two boys ages 4 and 3.
Kyara Lomer Camarena has a 2-year-old son, Copelan, and a brand new baby.

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