She Says… The Negotiations

The curse of an overly verbal child is the endless, and I do mean endless, negotiations. The constant “why”s and “what’s dat called”s don’t rattle me at all, but the back-and-forth of negotiating with a toddler simultaneously crack me up and wear me down.

My kid has always had a special knack for charming people into getting what he wants. He’s just so darn cute and he knows just how to ask and he’s surprisingly perceptive about which techniques to use on a given person in a given situation. His emotional intelligence is far higher than many of the adults I know! Add in his strong linguistic skills and you’ve got a recipe for a very skilled negotiator.

I try to balance the times when I stick to my guns entirely (when it really matters) and when I can give a little. Rarely do I concede to his wants entirely, even if the situation allows, strictly on principle. (What can I say, I am stubborn and have been known to stand my ground firmly, even when it wasn’t really the right call. I’m human too).

One of his favorite things to do recently is watch a Taylor Swift music video. Don’t ask me how this little habit got started, as I really can’t remember, but he totally loves her. (I’m sure it was a desperate attempt to get a few minutes of quiet during a particularly unrelenting negotiation/chatterbox session). He calls her “The Pretty Lady”. Adorable.

Anyway, this little 3 minute break while he watches the video has become a lifesaver when I’m trying to cook dinner and Benjamin is traveling. It’s a huge treat for him because I’m super anal about Owen’s screen time and only allow a little bit each day, so he’s constantly negotiating to get more. He comes right in the door after school now and asks “Can I watch Taylor Swift while you cook, Mommy?”. Usually my mouth says no before I can even realize it, and right then and there the negotiations start. “Just one?” he says, holding up one adorable little teeny tiny finger in the air, his eyebrows raised hopefully. “Just one, no fussin’?” (translation: if you let me watch just one video, I won’t fuss when you turn it off).

I realize this example is less of a negotiation and more of him trying to convince me to let him do something… but we often have exchanges where we each whittle down what we’re asking for until we come to a mutually beneficial solution. Negotiating/mediating at its best. Thankfully, Owen seems to be a relatively logical and honest negotiator (especially for a 2 year old). Once we agree on the solution, whatever it is (one Taylor Swift video, for instance, with no fussing when it’s over), we always follow through. No fussing. Both of us.

So although sometimes it feels like all I’m doing is giving in (which KILLS me, as someone who is constantly trying to teach the “you can’t always get what you want” object lesson), I’m also raising a little person who is remarkably good at compromise. Which is something a lot of adults I know could use a good lesson in.

Bending the rules and being flexible can be an important thing. Once again, Owen has taught me an invaluable life lesson. He’s wiser than he will ever know.

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8 responses to “She Says… The Negotiations

  1. Why is Taylor Swift toddler crack?? Faith is obsessed with that same music video (that I sadly recognize from the still). Just the opening bars will stop her in her tracks, no matter how epic her tantrum. Ms. Swift needs to come out with a kid album already.

  2. Is that one her latest song? We sing it in the car on the way to/from day care and he’s in the back parroting along “never ever ever getting back together” and then I wonder what his teachers think if he sings that stuff at school lol

    His favourite negotiating stance is “just 2 minutes, mommy?” I think negotiations are a good thing. It’s kind of like what Karp talks about in happiest toddler (although it’s been a WHILE since I’ve read it), something about letting them “win” sometimes (even if you structure it that way) is a great tactic. That’s what we do at our house. If he doesn’t want to do something I need him to do, I often will change his mind with offering up something he likes to do afterwards. I think it’s a great way to teach compromise as well!

  3. @Kara, Seriously. That would be AWESOME.

    @Angie, You’re right! I do feel strongly that he should “win” whenever possible, because there are so many times when he just… can’t.

  4. The negotiation skills of toddlers would put world leaders to shame! And for us, it’s not Taylor Swift, it’s “Gwwweeeeeee!!!!”…aka Glee! Only we can only show certain songs because he saw a song that included a make out scene and proceeded to try to kiss us like that! Oops! Not only are they great negotiators, they are observant little sponges too! :)

  5. So, I was writing a post in my head this morning about pretty much the same topic. Eli is remarkably easy to reason with for a two year old… this morning he got really upset because we couldn’t find his favorite Woody doll. I explained that he left it in Daddy’s car last night and he would have to wait until Daddy picked him up from school to see Woody again and he would have to pick another toy to play with for now. He thought about it and said, albeit tearfully, “Opay, Mommy. I pay wit Buzz den.” (Translation: Okay, Mommy, I play with Buzz then.) These little guys of ours are pretty smart.

  6. @Jen, Love Glee! We often use that for our Pandora station (but I hear you on having to keep a close eye on the videos.

    @Casey, I love that story! Owen is the same. Even when he doesn’t like the answer, if he understands the reason, he usually thinks of an acceptable solution. Come to think of it, that just may be one of the most important lessons I ever teach him.

  7. D loves that “Never Ever Ever” song! He’s also “negotiating” as well, but I think Owen could teach him a thing or two about compromise. :)

  8. I have to say that I can’t listen to Taylor Swift now without thinking about Owen’s “no fussin’?” Elle is an excellent negotiator, too – she does it with a lot of things, but almost every night, when I’m reading books to her, I’ll say, “OK, one more.” She immediately responds with a nod and a resolute “Three more,” like I obviously made a mistake in my calculations. These kids …

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