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Bribes, Threats, and Tears: 9 Ways to Get Your Adult Children to Vote

Your son or daughter's vote could save democracy. Stephanie Dolgoff has a plan to make sure your offspring get to the polls. Read on.

Whether it’s the harrowing trauma that black and brown people are living through (or not) at the border or at the hands of police; the near-certainty that Roe v. Wade will be overturned along with other basic human rights; the fear that they won’t have a habitable planet on which to raise their own children, or simply being pissed that because of the negligent non-handling of the pandemic by this hideous admin means they have to move back in with you—kids today are showing up to vote and I am here for it.

There was a huge jump in the number of voters aged 18 to 29 who cast ballots in the 2018 midterms as compared to other midterms. Plus, 63 percent of this age group have said in surveys that they’re definitely voting in this presidential election. That’s up from 28 percent who declared they would go to the polls at the same time in 2016. 

“This 2020 election cycle is particularly interesting because, for the first time in almost over 25 years, we’re moving from a midterm election where young people’s participation dramatically increased,” said Abby Kiesa, director of impact for the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. “Now there are 47 million 18- to 29-year-olds who are eligible to vote in the 2020 election, and 15 million of them have turned 18 since the last presidential election.”

But…and isn’t there always a “but?”…savvy political types always say this about young voters: “Always promised, never delivered.”  

Um, no. Not this time. Not if women like us have anything to do with it.

Read More: Of Course Your Vote is Incredibly Important Too: Why Woman Our Age Are a Force to be Reckoned With in This Election

Ways to Get Young People to Vote

My kids are 17, so I can’t put the full-monty press on them–yet. But I’ve got some ideas for how you can help make absolutely, positively sure that your own offspring make it to the polls. Who knows? Maybe your son or daughter’s vote will be the one that saves our democracy.  

  1. Show them a photo of Sens. Mitch McConnell, Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham and point out that they are even more out of touch than you are—and you still love your Uggs and say “taped” instead of “recorded,” even though nobody has a VCR anymore. Then point out that these are the fellas who remain in charge if they fail to show up.
  2. Ask a more civic-minded kid to show you how to use your daughter’s preferred social media platform. Then post her adorably awkward middle school photos (the ones before the braces came off, before she got contacts—you know, in her sparkles-on-everything phase) and only take them down if she commits to showing up. She may block you, but you can always paper her neighborhood with old-school fliers.
  3. That 529 you set up to help with college for his kids? It would be a real shame if something were to happen to it. Like you cashing it out for a retirement home in Costa Rica where you wouldn’t even be around to babysit. (He needn’t know you’re bluffing.)
  4. Crying. Crying can be very effective with adult children, especially when male parents do it. It’s so disconcerting for kids to see older dudes sobbing like they haven’t seen since … well, since maybe never. So plant your partner in front of one of those investment commercials where they show a couple’s cradle-to-grave romance in 30 seconds, and, once the waterworks start, trot him out to make a “Go vote” plea.
  5. Make it a condition of your child’s continued residence in your basement.
  6. If you were a “trophy for trying” kind of parent—and I’m not saying you were—what’s one more trophy
  7. Casually mention that if Social Security and Medicare get gutted, you’ll be pitching a blanket fort in his living room for several decades. The best chance of preventing that outcome is … yes, right, voting.
  8. Vote early yourself, then show up on November 3rd at their home or jobs and sing songs from Carole King’s Tapestry unless they let you drive them to the polls.
  9. Just tell them how important it is to you, how afraid you are for the future, and would they please do this for you, that you’d be grateful. That oughta do it. Right?

Read More: 100 Years After the 19th Amendment, Why Some Wives Still Vote Like Their Husband


Stephanie Dolgoff has contributed to a a variety of titles as an editor and writer, including  SELF, Glamour, “O” The Oprah Magazine, Redbook, and many others. Her articles have also appeared in the New York Times and the New York Post.  Her book, My Formerly Hot Life: Dispatches From Just The Other Side of Young, was a New York Times national bestseller.

Further Reading

One Vote, Two Votes, I Vote, You Vote

One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy 

A version of this story was originally published in October 2018.

By Stephanie Dolgoff


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