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The Secret to My Toothbrushing Coercion

A little tidbit for you: before I became a writerly type, I had a nice little run in the world of financial services as a wholesaler of 401(k)s, mutual funds and variable annuities. In fact, I won my old company’s highest award for “sales excellence” for converting a territory which had generated just 5 million dollars of investor premiums into one that generated 50 million in my very first year.

And there were three primary ways I accomplished that: (a) under-promising but over-delivering, (b) illustrating the benefits to be gained from the use of my products and services and (c) finding win-win situations.

Oddly, it’s those same three principals I find myself using over and over as I try to sell my kids on things that are ultimately for their own good. And last night was a perfect example.

The situation: a 4:45 phone call from my wife:

Caroline: “You remember that I’m going out with the girls tonight, right?”

Me: [lying] “Of course I do. What time do you want me home?”

Caroline: [not lying] “Oh, I dunno, quarter past now, maybe? I’m supposed to leave in 45 minutes.”

Me: [lying] “Gotcha, honey. I was just about to walk out the door.”

Caroline: [not lying] “Stop lying.”

Me: “Roger that, honey.”

So here’s the deal I’m a capable parent, indeed. And getting four kids (Alli was at her dad’s) through our evening routine does not faze one bit. At least not generally speaking. But, I have a little confession to make the toothbrushing part kinda does.

Luke’s a lay-up, y’all. He’s one. You throw some of that baby toothpaste that Caroline buys on that tiny Winnie the Pooh toothbrush and the guy chews on it for like an hour while I give the big kids their baths (which, I might point out, is a win-win). BOOM. Done.

But the triplets? They can be a bit tougher for several reasons. First, to keep two of them at bay while I bathe a third, I strategically employ the TV (don’t judge me). I mean, we’d all be foolish to underestimate the captivating power of Fireman Sam, right? Which is both good and bad, this captivating power, because when it comes time to brush, sometimes this alluring fireman is unanimously cited as a reason for dissent.

And second, once I do get them brushing, there’s my concern of whether or not they’re brushing well. I could obviously remedy the situation by brushing for them, but when you have triplets, you learn early and often that the quicker you can get them to do things for themselves, the better both for the parent and the child.

It was these toothbrushing nuances I pondered as I made my way home when I realized that I had a silver bullet of sorts that I’d not yet used. One that I believed would get the triplets brushing without delay as I could use it in conjunction with my three-pronged sales approach that had rendered so much past success.

But what’s more, this silver bullet would also help remedy the ongoing concern pertaining to the quality of their brushing endeavors.

The silver bullet, you might be wondering? Listerine’s Smart Rinse for kids. And as you can see from the picture below, I had two bottles (both courtesy of Listerine).

And, as you just saw, Barbie appealed to my little doll while Phineas and Ferb appealed to another pair of cleverly mischievous boys.

I knew as soon as I busted them out that there was interest.

“Can we rinse with it? Can we rinse with it?”

“Maybe, guys. But maybe not.”

Hello? Under-promising / over delivering 101, folks. Textbook. Because of COURSE they were gonna get to rinse with it. Never a doubt. Still, always best to under-promise, no?

“Please!”

“Well, I dunno. This is a special product for little kids who brush super-well the very first time their parents ask. It’s not for kids who dilly dally in front of the TV.”

Did you catch the benefit I just illustrated? Hmm, did you? They buy the product (brushing teeth well and without delay), and BOOM, they get to try the coveted mouth rinse of their desire.

But here’s the beauty folks. It’s a WIN-WIN because the rinse prevents cavities, thus alleviating my concerns of whether or not the triplets are brushing as well as they should be.

So. You might be wondering. How did it all go? Pretty well. This is the scene less than a minute after I made the first request to brush:

So, yeah. They were brushing like little fiends. But seriously, how uncool would it be if I didn’t show you my junior-most associate who was also on hand?

Luke and I both agreed, all three had qualified for the smart rinse. And they loved it. Very easy to use. Clean, too. And I could tell from the looks on their face that they were enjoying their first encounter with Listerine. After a coupla gargles, it was time for the dismount:

BOOM. DONE. Well, except for the whole breath-smelling bit which I could have done without:

But such shenanigans, I think we’d all agree, are considerably less gross in light of the triplets’ superior oral hygiene. And I’d like to tip my cap to Listerine for helping me make it happen.

Well, Listerine and, you know, my crazy sales skills.

Right?

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Disclosure: I received products from Johnson & Johnson as part of my participation in the LISTERINE® Kids Cavity-Free School Year Program. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own. Click here to see more of the discussion.

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