Header Graphic

 Home      *      Blog      *     Contact    *   Book         


 May 20, 2012

Influence Backfire

Serve Dessert First!

What is Influence


Influence is the power you have to shape another person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions.     

What is a Backfire

Producing an unexpected and undesirable result.


Why it's  Important

Control is an illusion.  Influence is the only real power we have with other people, especially our kids.  So, it’s important that we amplify our influence and make sure that the influence we intend is the influence we create.  

How you do what you do is just as important as what you do.


The Problem

Sometimes our best intention backfires. Their experience of our message may color the meaning of the message they receive. To effectively influence our children we must influence their desires.  Desire drives behavior.      


 The Tip

Serve Dessert First!

Step 1 - Pick a Promise

Choose a parenting promise; here's a common one:

I promise to teach you how to take care of yourself and be healthy.


Step 2- Break it Down

Break the elements of this promise into smaller, age appropriate actions, such as choosing a well-balanced diet.

Step 3-Focus on Happiness

Focus on the happiness element in the notions of “taking care of yourself” and “being healthy.”

Step 4-Experiment

Experiment and serve dessert first!  Dessert makes people happy.  Acknowledge dessert as a necessary food group and serve it first!

Wait … before you run away horrified consider this:

Dessert is often used as a bribe to get kids to eat other foods.  When dessert is used as a carrot, the other foods are seen as part of the stick.  Does that influence desire to eat healthy foods?   Nope.

Be Real  

Not many adults can deny the happiness of an ice cream sundae.  For me, ice cream is just as important as other foods so I plan meals to ensure that I get enough of everything.  That way I’m happy—happy in every sense of the word.

Step 5-Evaluate

After the experiment, evaluate the influence you had on desire. 

  • Were your kids more willing to eat dinner? 
  • Were they encouraged by your display of trust? 
  • Did you enjoy the mealtime experience a bit more? 

My Story

My youngest son, Jack, is a junk-food lover.  After trying all sorts of carrot/stick tactics to promote healthy habits, I realized my efforts were backfiring in two big ways. 

Backfire #1:  Sneaking Snacking.    By 1st grade he’d figured out how to trade food for sweets with his friends during lunch at school.  He also learned how to swipe candy at home and hide the wrappers—though thankfully not very well. 

I can't influence him if I don’t know what’s going on.

Backfire #2:  Doubt.  Jack began to doubt me.  He began to wonder if I “got” him at all because it seemed I just couldn’t understand how important dessert was to his happiness. 

I can't influence him if he doesn’t believe I “get” him.




By acknowledging and accepting the urgency of someone else’s needs (whether you agree with them or not) you communicate deeper understanding.


Messages sent are received as intended


With trust and understanding you have the ability to influence.


Related Articles: Tip First, Decisions and the People Who Pay the Price.  Consider the backfire with Time Magazine’s cover story, Are You Mom Enough?

Related Tip of the Week: Have Faith, Peer Pressure,

Peacemaker Coach Tip of the Week - Influence Backfire - Serve Dessert First!



Chime in >> What do you think?


 Email Lorraine with your question 






WCC logo

Registration Opens Fall 2013 - Coach Training and Certification with Lorraine Esposito



Coach Lorraine Esposito, PCC



Influence ChidlrenAmplify your influence with children


Influence Relationships

Amplify your influence in relationships


Influence ClientsAmplify your influence in business

  Higher Ground Leadership Coach


CoachVille Mentor Coach


Certified Coach by the International Coach Federation