The Convince-A-Parent Project

How kids' natural-born wheedling skills can become the foundation of persuasive writing

Every kid I know wheedles like a pro. They are good – frustratingly stupendous, really – at convincing argument and no-holds-barred persuasion.  Which is why my daughter ended up with a (very healthy, I promise) cookie before breakfast the other day. So [getting my dignity back] I figured, why not channel that towards academic purposes?

Enter the Convince-A-Parent Project:

In this project, kids get to use persuasive essay structure (and their own in-born persuasive knack) to try and convince their parents to give them something they want. I do this project just before the holidays, when it seems like they have the best chance of getting what they ask for anyway. It’s a little evil, I know, but also a chance to turn materialistic begging into something more productive. You might use this to make a kid really think through what they’re asking for and to turn wheedling into more of a conversation. And the core of a good convincing argument is seeing both sides, so perhaps it can bring some understanding if the answer is still no.

How to convince a parent:

We start by doing brainstorming and pre-writing.

  • First, we think of something we want. How about a pony?

  • Then we brainstorm a list of all the reasons we want said pony.

  • Then we think of all the reasons you, the parent, might NOT want the pony. (If there are none, there is nothing at stake and they need to pick a bigger ask.)

  • Then we come up with possible rebuttals to your points.

After we brainstorm, we pick the best reasons for a pony and your biggest concerns, and write about them all, first introducing our subject: You know how I’ve always loved horses… then asking for what we want (amazing how many people forget this crucial step), then delving into the arguments for getting the pony and our rebuttals against the counterarguments. Finally, we come back to our main point and restate our desire for a pony, leaving you, our reader and victim, thinking about the core point: how we should get that pony.

We add to the persuasive power (and educational value) by revising carefully for spelling and punctuation. Sometimes we draw heart-wrenchingly adorable and detailed pictures. Then we hand them to you. And we just dare you to say no.

Wait, that was an essay?

Does any of this stir any latent knowledge of essay structure? It might, because what we’ve constructed here is pretty much the basic five paragraph essay. Introduction, argument in 2-4 paragraphs (or sentences, for younger kids), conclusion.

By introducing this structure as a form for getting concrete things, it takes something potentially dull and overwhelming and plugs it into kids’ strengths, making it usually just click right in. (This project doesn’t always work so well for two groups of kids: those who feel bad about asking their parents for more, and those who get everything they want already.)

And later, after the holidays, we apply these same skills to more altruistic ends. I promise.