If You Don’t Let Me Take Your Picture, Your Cat Will Probably Get Eaten by a Coyote: The subtle differences between bribes, threats, and good natured cajoling | Do Try This at Home: If You Don’t Let Me Take Your Picture, Your Cat Will Probably Get Eaten by a Coyote: The subtle differences between bribes, threats, and good natured cajoling

Saturday, August 16, 2014

If You Don’t Let Me Take Your Picture, Your Cat Will Probably Get Eaten by a Coyote: The subtle differences between bribes, threats, and good natured cajoling

I've been a parent for almost twenty years, a teacher for over a decade, and spent over thirty years working in various other types of childcare.  I've been interested in photography just about the same length of time: since my dad got me my first camera when I was seven.

You'd think that with that much experience, I wouldn't really get so many pictures of "The Hand".  But you'd be wrong.  

NOBODY likes getting the hand.  But I can pretty much guarantee that giving “The Hand” isn’t any fun either.

I got “The Hand” for years.  At least, it felt like years.

Then it happened that some choice parenting words fell out of my mouth (probably, “No eating the cat food! Cat food is only for the cat!”) and I realized that I just needed to put a few of my teaching practices to work when I'm behind the camera. 

So what are some of the options?

Threats are one option, and quite honestly some children respond to them rather rapidly.   However, threats are rarely going to make for that heartwarming captured moment picture you may have been hoping to capture.

I know, because here’s the picture I got when I told my boy, “If you don’t come out and let me take your picture, your cat will probably get eaten by a coyote”:

In my defense, I needed the subject matter, so it was a choice between him and the cat.  And there ARE occasional coyote sightings in my neighborhood. 

Compare this to the picture I get when I tell him, “Try not to look too much like a terrorist” and you’ll see that humor has distinct advantages: 

Bribery works for a lot of children.  When my boy was a preschooler, he would clean his entire room for four chocolate chips.  But there is an even better way to get that coveted photo from a kid who wants nothing to do with being in front of a camera. 

The magic words are: "AS SOON AS"!
Pretend you are ten years old and you hear the following offer, stated three different ways.  Take at least a moment between each one to see how it pretend makes you pretend to feel.

A) If you don’t finish the dishes, we’re not going to see Frozen!

B) If you do the dishes, we’ll go see Frozen!

C) As soon as you finish up the dishes, we can go see Frozen!

Neither you nor your parents are going to have a great time with A, whether or not the dishes get done.  The atmosphere is already one of threats and not so conducive to having fun.

B is better and is fine if it works, but notice that the word “if” gives the child an out.  It puts the ten year old in charge and gives a choice about whether or not the dishes get done.

In my mind, the best is “AS SOON AS”!

“As soon as” combined with a touch of humor and playfulness can work wonders.  In scenario C, it doesn’t matter if the dishes get done or not.  The responsibility sits firmly with the child, and the child has no one to blame but him or herself if the dishes don’t get done. 

Scenario C leaves the parent with options that aren’t really available in A or B.  If it’s getting close to movie time and the child has been working diligently, the parent might say, “I think you can finish up on time to see the movie!  Let me give you a hand!”

But if the child has been balking or lollygagging, the parent might say something along the lines of   “Oh well.  We can see Frozen tomorrow night no big deal.  Maybe we’ll still have time for a game of Yahtzee before bed if you hurry.” (No skin off Mom or Dad’s back either way).

The key to this strategy is the true belief that “It’s my way way or the highway."  That belief just isn’t present in option B.  Option B has that element of pleading that gives the child the clear indication that Mom or Dad really isn’t in charge.  The “in charge” feeling is more present in option A, but not in that “feel good way” that produces a halfway semi-decent photograph.

The above pictured boy does his best to avoid babies at all costs.

So that's it folks!  I recommend "as soon as" as a fairly magic elixir to a variety of parenting problems, including but not limited to getting your child in photographs.  Threats, when used judiciously, are also fine.  Pleading...not so much.  

Happy parenting!

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More in the"Tips for Improving Your Photography" Series that might ACTUALLY help your photography:

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Pams Party said...

I have to smile a bit at this post.. Only because I really, really relate. My kids are all teenagers now. I don't know how many hands, back of heads and silly faces I have taken the last few years. My 13 year has gotten so bad with the hand in front of the camera this summer, I have made a collage.. LOL!! She used to love having her picture taken, so hopefully she will once again.

Jill said...

I actually wished I could have found MORE "hand" photos for this post, because I know I have them in spades! Can't wait to see your collage when you post!

Lara Neves said...

You know, I'm seriously going to focus on using "As Soon As" with my crazy Sophia. She's actually splendid at letting me take photos of her, but not so much doing chores or anything like unto them. I'll let you know how it goes.

Jazmine Lopez said...

I can relate but not with children with my family or my boyfriend. They're all just so camera shy. It's hard to get decent pictures when I want to. I've gotten a hand to the face or camera so many times. We'll see if I can bribe them a bit.

Arizaphale said...

Forget photos! This is the best parenting advice for life. Mind if I reference you ???

Annette Whipple said...

I am adding this to my vocabulary. One child, in particular needs this.

Rosemond said...

Oh, I am totally using As Soon As!!! Thanks for linking up at Big Hair and Books!



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