Q I really want to get a hamster, but my parents say no.  How can I convince them that I'll really take care of a hamster if they let me get one?

A If my son or daughter (15 and 11) wanted to convince me they should have a pet of their very own, I'd be most persuaded by the following:

1. First, understand that a pet is a family decision because it requires family resources, time and care. If you want to have a pet of your own, be prepared to provide for all its needs, including learning everything you can about hamsters and their care. Find a vet in your area that has good experience with hamsters and ask them about their office hours, location, fees, whether they do rodent surgery, who covers for them when the office is closed (and can you get there).  Find a breeder in your area that rears healthy hamsters and has lots of good references. Make space in your room for a cage and supplies. Price everything you need. Earn the money for a cage and starting supplies and the hamster. Build a savings account of $50-100 for vet bills plus savings for a few months' worth of food, bedding and other supplies in case you lose your job for awhile. Start earning the money you'll need right now.

2. Approach your parents together at a good time to talk. Tell them you want to have a pet of your own, and to provide all the money and care it needs. Ask politely to understand why they've said no. Listen to the answer carefully, ask questions if something isn't clear, but don't argue at all. Say thanks for explaining, and then drop the subject.

3. Think about what has to happen to make a hamster a better decision for the family based on your parent's objections -- all of them. If it's expense, tally up your earnings, list anticipated expenses, and write down your plan to earn and save money. If it's space, keep the space you made cleared to prove you can.  If it's that there are enough pets in the house, ask if you could take care of one of them as your very own to prove you can. If it's responsibility, be more responsible!

4. Put your plan into action. Leave your folks alone about the whole idea for a few weeks. When you're ready to talk to them again, be prepared. Show them how you've been working to make it better for your family to have a hamster.  Ask them if that helps overcome the objections and what else they'd need to see.

5. Whatever the answer is, it's going to be the house rule for now, so accept it with grace. Don't challenge it, but do ask to understand it. I know you want a hamster, but take care that you don't want it enough to behave badly toward your parents. I know you realize that's not an effective way to get what you want in a family decision.

6. Repeat these steps for as long as it takes to satisfy them without pestering them -- until you can demonstrate that real action on your part can make a hamster a good family choice. If my kids did all this and took excellent care of all their responsibilities for the current family pets at the same time, I'd be convinced they were sticking with their plan and would stick with caring for another pet.  I'd offer to match all the money they earn toward their pet's care to put in savings for vet expenses. I'd probably offer them matching funds toward the cage for their next birthday or Christmas if they can be that patient to give their lovey the very best.

I'd be impressed. And very, very proud.
My Parents Say "No"
by Jane Landis
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