All the parents in the room, listen up! We are talking to you right now and we need you to hear what we are saying. In all the years of doing photography, both as an amateur and as a professional, there has NEVER been a time when what we are going to talk about today actually worked.

So what are we talking about? We are referring to threatening your child! Imagine this…you are at your portrait session. Everyone is dressed nice and the photographer is ready to take your family or child’s portrait. But, little Johnny doesn’t want to have his picture taken. Instead, he’s grumpy and wants to scowl at the photographer with his arms crossed. The photographer takes it all in stride and tells everyone else to look at the camera, 1, 2, 3, click. Beautiful family picture, except for little Johnny, grumpy look on his face, arms crossed. (Sometimes, these pictures are adorable and you HAVE to have it later because it is way to cute to pass up)

So what is mom and dads next move? They try cajoling him, tickling him, bribing him and when all else fails, the threats begin. “if you don’t smile, you’re not going to the park”, “if you don’t smile, you’re going to time out”, “if you don’t smile, you can’t watch tv”. Whatever your threat is, you use it. Raise your hand if you’re guilty of this. Yup, we thought so.

But guess what? You just made it way harder and less likely that Johnny will ever smile for the camera. He might start to cry, or pout or pretend to smile and give us a big, fake, dopey looking forced grin. Trust me when I say that you aren’t going to like the reaction. So try this instead…

Instead of threatening him, let’s take a couple minutes to relax and remember that they are just pictures. It’s not brain surgery, and his smiling isn’t going to save lives. Sometimes the photographer will even ask the rest of the family to take a break and will spend time talking to Johnny, without the camera in his face. Then, as he relaxes and feels better, we can try again. Or maybe he needs a snack, or to go to the bathroom, or wants to look at a bug he saw. Who knows? But we can guarantee that threatening him won’t work or achieve your desired result.

So next time you want your child to do something, try figuring out why they are behaving the way they are, rather than jumping to threats and conditions. You might be surprised at the results.

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