The Great Negotiator

“Mommy, I don’t like this…” my youngest tells me, as they spit out the last half-eaten carrot on their plate.  I don’t know what bothers me more: that they already ate the other four carrots on their plate, doused in ranch or that they suddenly decided they don’t like it.  Really?  I used to think, okay, is this really a big deal?  They ate the other ones, so why can’t I just let this one slide?  When both of my kids were just starting out with table foods, I relented very quickly.  As everything seemed like a trial run, I wondered if I forced them to eat it that they might reject it harder and then refuse it time and again.  But now they are older and “get it”, I need to be more on my game.  Let the negotiations begin.

We often hear other parents making deals with their kids.  At restaurants, on the playground, in their own homes, and it can be about anything.  I sometimes find myself saying to my eldest, “just do a potty check and THEN we’ll go outside.”  Do I feel it necessary to make a compromise on this?  I guess so.  It depends on the situation.  If my eldest is hands on their hips, outright refusing my request, I usually dig in a little harder, such as in the potty compromise.  If they had just simply said “no”, would I have pushed them as hard?  Hell yes.  My reason:  you don’t want to wait until it’s a dire situation to try and work out a negotiation.

Believe me, it sucks.  You have a whining toddler (or two, if you’re really lucky) at the grocery store.  They start touching all of the boxes on the shelves, making a few topple and fall.  When you ask them to pick them up, and then stop doing it, they outright start screaming.  You have a quick (and I mean, split second, could be mortifying) decision to make: do you try to negotiate with them or do you just pick them up and sweep them out before it gets really bad?  Now, if you have NEVER made compromises with your kid, it could have a negative effect.  They could have no response to you whatsoever and continue their antics.  Then you still have to sweep them out of there, with your head held super low.  But if you have made a negotiation previously, say when they don’t want to wipe their nose on a tissue or put a toy away, they will be used to hearing you say such things, as well as what the outcome could be if they don’t follow.  If you play your cards right, even the threat of knowing what could happen will have enough of an effect on them to stop in their tracks.  Even if you aren’t always that lucky (as we know we are not), the worse case scenario?  You have to follow through on your threat (i.e. take them out, kicking and screaming while leaving your cart behind).  In either case, you have won the negotiation, just in a different way.  They know you mean business, and you know you have achieved your goal: to teach them a lesson.

So what about the people who don’t follow through?  Or just give in all the time no matter what?  I watched this firsthand the other day.  A friend of mine was battling with their kid over something, and stood their ground until their kid gave in.  I thought, awesome!  You go girl!  Your kid knows who’s the boss!  But then, later on, while we were eating, the kid refused to eat, got up from the table even though their parent said they couldn’t, and ended up getting dessert even though they had been previously told they couldn’t have it if they didn’t eat their food.  Hmmm…now it made more sense why the kid was refusing so hard earlier to given in: they didn’t see the negotiations in small situations as well as more important ones.  We all know that if you aren’t consistent, it’s difficult for your kid to see that you mean business.  Even if it means standing your ground over something as basic as putting their hat on when outside.

Yes, I choose my battles.  Yes, I sometimes don’t respond to some of the things my kids’ say because I’d rather them problem solve on their own.  But when it comes to my kid trying to make my decision for me, oh hell, no.  I like giving two options for them, both of which I will ultimately be happy with and one they will feel remotely okay with (like I care if they are super happy with what the outcome is, I’m the mom).  I feel like it’s a compromise on some level, and they are happy when they are able to make the decision for themselves, in a way.  Mind control?  Nope.  Just another negotiation in the journey of mommyhood.

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