Not everyone’s a grandparent, or even a parent. But we’ve all been a child once upon a time, and have either been through the wringer or put them through it.

The invitation to a baby shower for a friend expecting her first child—a girl—asked guests to include a note in the RSVP divulging our most sage piece of advice for successful child wrangling. Without hesitation I wrote:

No doubt about it. The two most important words are:
Sounds great!

This counterintuitive statement must be spoken with absolute enthusiasm and not a trace of irony in response to any and all ridiculous, shocking, terrifying, and darkly uttered B.S. your child throws at you. It’s not easy; it goes against everything you may be feeling.



Ultimate Aikido 2

Sounds great! is the ultimate aikido move in parenting (and often, in life*.)

From the time your daughter is able to speak she will taunt you with pronouncements designed to rattle your motherly cage, break your maternal heart, and make you mad as hell. These set-ups will continue until she reaches her majority, peaking at puberty.

If you are to survive, you must memorize these two words and repeat them at each and every provocation.

Sounds great! can defuse the most provocative pronouncements by employing the ancient martial arts move called ‘joining up.’

She wants a boa constrictor for a snuggly pet? Sounds great! She insists on wearing her Halloween costume to school and eats nothing but Mallomars? Sounds great! She wants to join a motorcycle club and blast off to Yuma? Sounds great!

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As a parent, you will quickly find that head-on confrontation only leads to sorrow, for you will inevitably give in to your child’s demands—I call it ‘water-on-stone syndrome.’ And each time you capitulate it will lead to escalating confrontations and demands that may become life threatening—to yours, and hers.

The wisest recourse is two simple words, sounds great! Nine times out of ten she will have already changed her mind—just to spite you.

* Not limited to child-rearing, sounds great! is an equally effective mantra spoken anytime and anywhere—with significant others, friends, co-workers, and all the other loved or unloved ones with whom you co-exist. It’s cousin to the “Say YES!” that improv geniuses like Tina Fey practice. 

Try it for the next 24 hours. The results might surprise you.

Susan Dworski

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2 replies on “Ultimate Aikido for Everyone

  1. My Tai Chi teacher, Mr. B.P. Chan, had a wonderful all-purpose technique for dealing with children (he had eight).

    He would say: “You can do anything you want. Just don’t make me angry!”

    It gave them freedom of thought, but also created in them a nucleus for conscience.

  2. David –

    Love it!

    I’m sure every family in every culture has idiosyncratic, apocryphal mantras like these they use to

    try and maintain harmony. Whenever I hear one, I jot it down.

    The list is growing!

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