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January 22, 2012

Tip of the Week 

Insurance Against Mediocrity 

Not Nice

What is not being nice? Doing something that is perceived as a personal insult to another person. 

Why It's Important:  When you’re judged “not nice” your influence back-fires.  Your child will likely do the opposite of whatever you suggest or influence.

The Problem:  Perception is limited by experience and developmental growth.  Your child probably won’t even know that he or she doesn’t know something making it tough to explain. For example, trying to explain how serving grilled chicken and broccoli for dinner is nicer than serving chocolate cake for dinner.  Niceness is in real-time for your child.  He or she can’t see much beyond the last fork full so trying to relate healthy bodies, etc. will be useless.  You might even get a flexed a bicep to prove it!

The Tip:   Perspective Appropriate Analogy

Invite your child into your shoes using an analogy that they can understand and stay clear of using your child as the main character.  Here’s my example to get your thinking going.  I can’t help you much farther than this since the analogy you’ll use will be unique to your child.

Playing in the Street

I cast my son, Michael, as the babysitter for a younger boy we love, Jayden.  I asked Michael to imagine having to tell Jayden that he couldn’t play in the street.  Michael, who was about 12 at the time, was old enough to see the dangers but not too old to have lost the desire to play in the street. I asked Michael to imagine the disappointment in Jayden’s eyes and how that would make him feel.  He said he would probably be frustrated and feel guilty because he knew that Jayden wouldn’t understand and might not like him as much after that.   

It worked very well in part because the analogy was perspective appropriate.  Michael was experienced enough to see both sides of the scenario. But, perhaps the single most important element was that it didn’t involve him, per se. It’s always easier to point to another person’s mistakes or lack of knowledge than it is to see our own. Observing Jayden as an innocent loved one for whom we care deeply, created enough distance for objectivity and didn’t trigger defensiveness.


  • Awareness about the existence of limited perspective applies in many, many other scenarios
  • Influence is strengthened because you’re “not-nice” actions can be considered – maybe – sometimes – as something a bit nicer – maybe.  (Yes, it takes time.)

Related Articles:  Children are Unpredictable, Nice, Successful Failure   

Related Tip of the Week: Articulate, Make Sense, Skipping School   

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