Cajoling for Canines

By Jeanne Marie Laskas
Sunday, February 18, 2007

DEAR DADDY, I LOVE YOU. What I really wanted for my birthday was a cute little puppy. It will be black with white spots. And it will have soft and short fur. And it will have a very furry bed next to my bed. I will take it on walks, feed it, and put it to bed every night and every day. I will take it in the meadow, to the forest and around the house. The reason I want this for my birthday because its so cute. Do you want me to have a puppy for my birthday this year? Would you want me to buy a glow in the dark watch for you? The puppys name could be Roger, Annie, Sweetlips, Alex, Flora, Hannah, Elmo, or Sandy. Do you think the cat will like the new puppy? Would you like to watch a movie with me and the puppy in the living room together? I will bring you ice cream and a pillow for your head.

L, Y, F, E, L,Y, D, A, C.


Manipulation is such an ugly word. It is certainly not one you would ascribe to a 7-year-old girl writing a little love note to her dad -- or, necessarily, to any subordinate hoping to incur favors from The Man. If you look up synonyms for "manipulation," you get "treatment," "handling" and "management."

Poor Daddy. And just what stance is a mother supposed to take at times like these? My daughter has decided to deal with her father regarding a sensitive issue (he has been on an anti-pet kick ever since he got stuck nursing a gerbil a few years ago), using the power of the written word. She never actually speaks to him, or me, of her puppy hopes and dreams. Instead, she sits alone composing letters to her father, which she then casually leaves on his nightstand.

"Another one," he'll say to me.

"Oh, jeez," I'll say, feigning fatigue, while privately I think, "Work it, girl!"

A girl needs to know how to work it. Any person in any subordinate position would be wise to learn how to work it. Working it is a tool. A skill set a person might need to employ at various points in life, whether applying for a job or a car loan, or seeking a second chance with a traffic court judge. There are so many applications. What impresses me is that my daughter shows such potential, an innate ability that precedes any formal training. In studying her latest letter, I find inspiration. It takes me back to my roots, to rediscoveries of fundamentals I may have lost:

1. When deciding to work it, go right to the top. Resist the urge to wuss out by asking those in positions of minor influence (e.g., the pro-puppy mother) to do your bidding. Stand up to The Man.

2. Begin with flattery. Boost that ego. "Dear Daddy, I love you." Set the tone. I am coming to you with this because you are so extremely special.

3. Get right to the request (don't tease!), but do it softly. "What I really wanted for my birthday was a cute little puppy." Notice the past tense. She's talking about who she used to be, not necessarily who she is now. It takes the edge off.

4. Conjure an image of a beautiful, happy place when referring to your request. "Cute little," "soft," "furry bed," "meadow," "forest." Even the grouchiest anti-puppy father wants to be invited to such a place.

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