Is your precious little daughter a pint-sized diva when getting ready in the morning? Does your sweet angel of a son turn into the Tasmanian devil at the stroke of bedtime? 

If you’ve tried all the tricks — timeouts, piling on the praise, flat-out bribery — and still are encountering resistance from your little darlings when trying to get them to perform everyday tasks, consider reading the newly revised “How to Con Your Kid: Simple Scams for Mealtime, Bedtime, Bathtime — Anytime!” (Quirk Productions). 

On sale last Tuesday, the parenting manual is chockfull of tips and sneaky maneuvers to coax children ages 2 to 7 into “doing exactly as you want” — from getting them to go to school, to the doctor’s, into a bath tub and much more. 

As New York Times best-selling co-authors and fathers David Borgenicht and James Grace explain in the book’s introduction, “Sometimes it’s enough to lay the groundwork — give them [kids] the benefit of the doubt, treat them like responsible and intelligent individuals, teach them why things are the way they are.” 

“But, other times,” they go on, “you’ll need to be a bit, well, craftier. You’ll need to trick, distract or redirect your child so that he falls in line.” 

During a recent interview, Borgenicht admitted the word “con” is “mainly for effect,” explaining he and Grace don’t advocate outright lying and other deceitful tactics to get children to cooperate. 

“The book is actually about being more present as a parent, getting onto your kids’ level more frequently, about making the dull routines of everyday life more fun, and about giving your kids a voice when they feel they don’t have one,” Borgenicht said. 

“If there’s any ‘con,’¤” he added, “it’s that most of the tricks in the book are about giving kids the appearance of having the control they desire, while you’re actually just moving them further down the road you want them on.” 

Parents, he explained, usually can give children this control by offering a “forced choice,” a “pick this or that” strategy that can be used in nearly any situation. 

So, for instance, if you’re trying to get your son to eat breakfast, you might ask, “Do you want eggs or cereal this morning?” 

But making kids feel like they have power (even though you’re really the one pulling the strings) won’t always cut it. That’s when parents must get crafty by “turning chores and obligations into games, songs, races and ‘entertainment,’¤” Borgenicht said. 

The book offers a slew of creative options. 

Take the Cleanup Olympics, in which siblings “compete” against each other to see who can tidy up the fastest. The authors suggest making it more fun by creating names like “Play Room Relay” or “Dishwasher Derby” and announcing the action as if you’re a commentator. 

To get a child to play on his own, one recommendation they have is to set up a “toy testing area” in which the youngster is asked to play with five to 10 toys and has to decide which one he likes best. 

If you’re trying to get a child to sit still, cast a magic “freeze spell” on her. When she moves, let her cast a spell on you, too. 

Or, if you’re on an airplane, keep the kiddies entertained by using a few magic markers and airsickness bags to create your own in-flight puppet show, they suggest. 

Kid-friendly euphemisms — like “magic lotion” for “sunblock,” “swimming” for “bathtime” and “Pink Superboy Juice” for “medicine”— quickly can transform a dislikable task into a playful moment, they point out. 


A recent outing to the Staten Island Children’s Museum proved Islanders have a few tricks up their sleeves, too. 

Lisa Basile said telling her daughter, Danielle, 2½, “If you’re a good girl, we’ll go to the Museum,” works like a charm every time. And in order to get a reluctant Danielle to leave, Mrs. Basile says, “Let’s go see the preying mantis” — the display near the exit. 

Nabila Burke, nanny to 2-year-old Vespesiam Volpe, said the key to getting kids to cooperate is to get on their level and get them excited about whatever you wish them to do. 

For instance, on this particular day, Vespesiam wanted to stay home rather than go to the Museum. But once Ms. Burke told him how they’d be going on the bus and using the Metrocard, something she knows he loves doing, he changed his mind. 

To make him happier about brushing his teeth, Ms. Burke related, the boy was given three different toothbrushes, featuring Spiderman, Thomas the Train and SpongeBob Squarepants. 

The tot prefers the SpongeBob brush since it’s electric — which actually has helped with another problem: his fussiness over eating. As Ms. Burke learned from a parenting magazine, the rotating head stimulates taste buds and gets kids used to different textures. 

A white lie never hurts either, Tots Time instructor Mary Anderson explained. When her son was young, she’d tell him he was eating chicken, his favorite, even when it was some other protein. 

“But this looks different than the chicken we had last night,” he’d say. 

“There are many ways to prepare chicken” was her reply.

By Elise G. McIntosh

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