Negotiating the
Peace

negotiatingpeaceOne thing you realize fast when you become a parent, is that kids' minds are spinning at top speed from the moment they can walk. They want things, they have their own ideas, their own will, their own likes and dislikes. When they want things, they want them NOW and will insist until you either make it absolutely clear they cannot have it, or until you back down and give them what they want. As soon as that is over, they start wanting something else.

Kids are relentless, and are skilled negotiators. I found myself having to convince my 2 year old that his ducky pajamas were not the right clothes to wear to the store. It was a battle of wills and I had to do a lot of quick thinking and be strong to stand my ground against his protests. I knew that to get him to comply, I'd have to appear as if I was giving in to his desires in some way. I'd have to give him choices - all of which had to be agreeable to me.

"Either your favorite blue jeans, or your overalls, or your grey shorts."

"NOOOOooooo!! I want ducky pjs!"

"But remember your Grandma gave you these shorts? They came from New Jersey!" said with awe and amazement as if New Jersey was paradise.

He pauses and then decides that shorts from New Jersey are the coolest thing ever and agrees. Now for the shirt, the socks, the sneakers. There always have to be bargaining chips on the table:

"You have to wear the blue sneakers, but then I'll let you take your water-gun in the car."

He wants the beat up old red ones? Then forget the water-gun. I speak as if the US Constitution itself dictates that old red sneakers can never be worn if you want to bring a water-gun in the car to the store. It's just not done. He sees there is no way around it, and even agrees to a clause: the water-gun can come, but without any water. But now the shirt is a problem.

I sneakily choose one shirt that I like, and then quickly put it back, and say, "No, no, not that one."

Immediately he shouts, "That one! That one! I want that one!"

I hesitate, act uncertain, continue listening to him beg, and finally give in as if I had never wanted him to wear it in the first place. He is triumphant. He puts it on as if it had been his idea all along, and at this point the ducky pajama's are so old news.

I'm a bit worn out by the whole ordeal, but at least I have a decently dressed child who is in a happy mood and ready to go to the store. This scenario will play out over and over again through many and various situations.

How is this better than just demanding he or she does whatever you want them to do? They feel grateful that they have a say in the little things in life that are their own, while you are still the authority in charge that has the last word.



Evelyn Higginbotham


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