Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Art of Negotiation.

I'm staring at the computer, sucking down my breakfast smoothie, thinking that I should have something really brilliant to share here. My posts have been random, at best, and I knew that they would be during this phase of life. The fact that I'm even sitting here at all is thanks to Super Why. Also, I have some laundry started, and phew, pressing that START button is TOUGH WORK, so I'm taking a break.

It's a tricky business when your three coworkers are three and under. When sometimes you go through an entire day without conversing with an adult, up to your armpits in diapers and legos and blankets, hidden in what can feel like a black hole of existence while the world around you meanders by, possibly unaware that you exist at all.

Yes, being a SAHM can totally feel like that.

It's in the interlude of words with my three year old that I often catch myself negotiating or discussing certain actions or consequences before realizing that, oh my goodness, I'm totally discussing actions and consequences with my three year old. Cub's an articulate kid. He uses words like "suspension bridge" and "loquacious" and they sound clean as a whistle (okay maybe not "loquacious", but actually "suspension bridge"). Unfortunately, it's easy to misunderstand that verbosity for maturity, when, in fact, the negotiating party came into this earth only three years ago and only has the ability to process like a toddler. A TODDLER. And yet I catch myself in a game of words, conversing with him as though he were my equal. Example:

Cub: Mama, I want a snack.

Me: You may not have a snack, it's almost time for dinner.

Cub: But I really, really, want a snack. Just a small snack. I will eat it in my room quietly.

Me: It doesn't matter if you eat it in your room quietly, it's still a snack and dinner is still happening soon.

Cub: But if I take just a little snack, just an itty-bitty piece, then it will be okay if I have a snack.

Me: I really don't want you to have a snack because it's almost dinner time.

Cub: I know it's almost dinner time, but I think it would be okay if I just had a small snack.

Me: Whether the snack is big or small doesn't matter, what matters is that I'm making dinner YADDA YADDA YA.

How the conversation should go:

Cub: Mama, I want a snack.

Me: You may not have a snack, it's almost time for dinner.

Cub: But I really, really, want a snack. Just a small snack, I will eat it in my room quietly.

Me: I said no and you may not question me. You may play for ten more minutes, and then it is time for dinner.

Huh. That's easy enough. Don't get me wrong--I think the older our kids get, the more we should be willing to allow them to express themselves. But at this age, Cub just needs to know that my yes means yes and my no means no. And providing him with a way out--you may not have a snack, but here is something else you may do. Regardless if he's being extra good or extra sweet or if he even has a point while negotiating! He's three, not ten. He can negotiate when he's able to do long division. Until then, I set the rules and he gets to follow them.

I know that I place responsibility on Cub because he's the oldest. And he handles it well! But I can forget that he's still young and it is still my primary responsibility to train him. To continually teach him the importance of respecting authority and giving him opportunities to practice. And really, his behavior and demeanor are noticeably better when rules are enforced and boundaries are in place. He knows the space in which he can live and act and he feels safe there.

Ahh-the laundry just buzzed. Gotta run. My random parenting thoughts for the day!

Have a lovely day.


  1. Oh how I relate. I have a family member, that I love dearly, that without fail tries to reason with my four year old. This person does it in particular when I tell him "no". First, I know she's trying to help but I find it very undermining of my authority. Anyway, she thinks you should negotiate with kids. I may do it accidentally, but generally, I think they should learn to obey without question. But I also think we find ourselves falling into the negotiation trap from time to time.

  2. Ahhh...age 3. Negotiation at it's finest. ;)

    I often forget that Sophia just turned 4, since she's the oldest of 3 already! I feel bad for her at times because she DOES have a lot of weight on her shoulders, considering she's a big sibling to TWO younger ones and most kids her age are not (or JUST becoming a big sibling). But, I think she can handle it...and I just have to remind myself not to speak in 'too big' of words for her and let her be a kid as much as possible...you know, in between helping me with laundry, trash, lunch and diapers. LOL. ;)

  3. The combo of an eloquent child who is also the eldest can make it hard not to expect above and beyond what they are actually able to handle....I'm in that same boat, too. Thanks for the reminder that negotiations are not up for, well, negotiation. ;) Good post!