“Manipulation, fueled with good intent, can be a blessing. But when used wickedly, it is the beginning of a magician’s karmic calamity.”
As a teacher I learned that while manipulation is a maligned tactic it is useful. I might go so far as to say it is an essential tool. When you desire your child to love what you love it is worth considering. It is much better than standing alone on some miserable moral high ground.
I knew I wanted Cai to enjoy skiing, it is too important to me for him to not feel its beauty. The thing is I had witnessed parents who have so little in common with their children that life must be either a huge compromise or miserable for one or both parties. I started strategizing early and the poor boy never stood a chance. Here is our story, I encourage you to read and adapt it to your own needs.
The Manipulation of Cai:
Watching a child learn to walk is like witnessing evolution in six months. First they are rolling on the floor, before long they develop the abdominal muscles to sit up, then pull them selves up on furniture to move around. Next they are ambling ape like, arced arms, swaggering above their heads, fingers pointing at each other, feet facing out, knees bent, and their butts penduluming above one foot then the other. I watched as the arms made their way down to his sides and the feet started to face straight ahead. It was then that I proffered a pair of cardboard skis, covered with duck tape and hoops of tape to insert his feet. These became a toy for scooting around the living room carpet.
Cai enjoyed “skiing” inside and I smiled internally. The following Thanksgiving I presented him with some masterful negative psychology.
“Cai I have got a great idea. Actually, forget it it wouldn’t really work.”
“What is it Dad?”
“No it really is a bad idea.”
“Dad what is it.”
“No Cai it really is quite silly.”
“Dad, come on what is it?”
“Well I was wondering… No forget it.”
“OK, well I was wondering if you wanted some real skis.”
“I want real skis.”
We bought him some of those plastic skis with bindings that take ordinary snow boots and allow the child freedom at the heel so that they can walk around. That winter I made a track and small slope in the back yard by clearing and moving snow. He loved it. Whenever I went skate skiing I took him in the chariot and then popped his skis on and put him between my legs when we came to down hill sections. That Christmas we went back to Colorado (warm skiing – what a concept) and took him to Ski Cooper. Heparticularly liked the attention he raised by being the “telemark toddler” on the bunny hill.
The manipulation went a stage further two years later. By now he was a pirate – his character of choice for a long time, so much so he wore his pirate costumes every day for nearly three years. That season Telepalooza, the telemark festival at Alyeska our local ski hill had a pirate theme. One day I took him past a local climbing store, I was walking slightly ahead knowing that he would find the poster that sat alluringly in the window.
“Dad, I want to go pirate skiing.”
“What do you mean pirate skiing Cai?”
“Look dad, Pirate skiing.”
“Oh Cai, you can’t go pirate skiing, its at Alyeska. It is way too steep. We would have to practice pirate skiing at least twice a week at Hilltop all season to be ready for that.”
“We NEED to practice pirate skiing twice a week dad.”
So we did. I was the father dressed as a pirate to entice my child to ski, and by the time Telepalooza rolled around he was ready. What a weekend. Cai was in pirate heaven. Everywhere he looked there were pirates on telemark skis. He won a pirate beanie for doing a beacon search and while running feral with his friends he even met Captain Morgan in the bar. (“And he’s got a real sword dad, and he let me hold it.”) Leaving the Sitzmark to go back to our hotel that evening my little four year old told me a joke. Pulling on my hand he asked, “Dad, what do pirates drink?” I don’t know Cai, what do pirates drink?“ ”PBRrrrrrrrrr.“
Eight years later, I still love skiing with the pirate. This year he wants to ski a fourteener with me. Don’t tell me manipulation isn’t a great tool.
How are you going to meet your child in their world and lure them into yours?