Listen up, teenagers.
When asking your parents for a special favor — like borrowing the car, getting your driver's license or buying an expensive pair of shoes — the approach is very important.
You must hide your sense of self-entitlement, you must mask that ever-present lack of gratitude, you must bury the notion that it's your world and we're just living in it. You must convince us that granting the favor will benefit us more than you.
Here are some simple steps you can follow that will dramatically increase the chances of your parents saying "yes" because they really care, and not because they are sick of hearing you whine.
1. Before you ask for anything, complete one of the many tasks we constantly bother you about. Need the car? Clean your room. Want a new video game? Mow the lawn. Looking to go on an unchaperoned Caribbean cruise? Empty out all the junk in the house, hold a garage sale and raise $2,500. While we'll know you've done it for the wrong reasons — you're supposed to clean up because it's the right thing to do — it will at least tell us you're about to ask for something ridiculous.
2. Acknowledge all that we've done for you. Usually, a simple review of the hundreds of thousands of dollars we've spent on you in the past six months will suffice. But if you're asking for something major, you may want to go with a chronological account that begins with "bringing me into this world and changing my diapers." Then cover major events and don't fail to mention the $1.37-million we have given to Disney for your entertainment purposes.
3. Don't ever say, "You don't do enough for me." This will cause parents to automatically tune you out. It will appear we're listening, but we're really thinking, "Wally Cleaver would have never said such a thing to Ward and June."
4. Don't tell us, "All my friends have it." This time-worn approach has never, ever worked. It didn't even work when Jocko asked his Cro-Magnon parents for a new club. It just makes our eyes roll and prompts us to draw upon some tired cliche like, "If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?"
5. Link the favor to improved academic performance. No matter what you want, if you convince your parents it will raise your grades, we'll buy it. Our ultimate goal is to send you off to college so we can be happy again. Next time, try this: "But Mom, this $220 pair of shoes will raise my comfort level in class and allow me to be more focused."
6. Be open. Tell us why it matters. It'll be the first time you've let us learn what's important to you instead of saying, "I don't know."
7. Consult grandparents or aunts and uncles. Glean information from relatives and then unleash it at the right moment. "Well, Aunt Theresa said Grandma let you drive when you were 16, and one time you forgot to pick up Aunt Gwen and Grandma threw a rock at you. So why can't I drive?" We'll insist it's a lie, but deep down it'll remind us of what it's like to be a teenager and we'll give in.
8. Accept the decision without a violent protest. Realize that parents are like the pope: our decisions are infallible. Don't overreact, storm off and slam your door because that's just going to make it more difficult the next time you ask for something.
That's all I'm saying.