Teach Your Kids to Negotiate with You Instead of Arguing

Getting your kids to do what you want can be very frustrating all the time. Kids simply want to do what they want not what you want. So the other day after eating dinner we had cupcakes for dessert. Our son ate his dinner like a good little boy and started to enjoy his cupcake. Our six-year-old daughter, on the other hand, refused to finish eating her dinner and started demanding to have her cupcake. Keep in mind that she was exhausted as it was the end of the day and often at times exhaustion can cause one to become completely irrational. In this case, she was being completely irrational in her demands. She wanted dessert without eating dinner. Having dessert without eating dinner is something even parents aren’t allowed to do.

We told her over and over again that she will get her cupcake once she finishes her dinner but it was no use. She went to the corner of the room and started demanding to have her cupcake. My wife was getting quite fed up with her as she refused to listen to a word we were telling her. The situation was quite frustrating.

Seeing that the situation was not going to get resolved by fighting I decided to take another approach. I went over to her and told her that its not fair to make demands and she has to learn to negotiate. She stopped her whining, looked at me, and said, “What’s negotiate?”

How to Negotiate
I gave her an example and told her that when she’s playing outside and I tell her that she has to come inside in five minutes and she says she wants to come inside in ten minutes and I respond and say she has seven minutes that that is negotiating. I said to her that she just can’t demand to have her cupcake, she needs to negotiate. I told her that to negotiate in this scenario would be to suggest something else that she might eat instead of chicken.

Situation Resolved
So she turned to me and said, “I will eat five triscuits instead of eating chicken” I responded and said, “Great! You got a deal. If you eat five triscuits you could have your cupcake.

She ate her five triscuits and she got her cupcake.

In Practice
The next time she was confronted with a similar situation she negotiated instead of whining.

Almost every night before bed my kids get to watch a kids video (we don’t own a TV). One night it was almost bedtime and the kids still needed a bath. My wife said that it that there won’t be time for a video tonight because the kids need a bath and need to get to bed and since the kids like to play in the bath there won’t be time to do both.

My daughter really wanted to watch the video so she said, “Hey I have an idea, what if we take a quick shower instead of a bath then we could watch a video.” My wife responded, “If you do it fast and get dressed for bed then you could watch a video.” The kids showered, got dressed for bed and were down in front of the video in less than 15 minutes.

Its amazing how cooperative kids could be when the most precious things in life i.e. cupcakes, cartoons are on the line.

This post was submitted to the July 9 Issue of the Carnival of Family Life hosted over at The Expatriate’s Kitchen

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5 thoughts on “Teach Your Kids to Negotiate with You Instead of Arguing

  • July 9, 2007 at 4:43 am

    Our 2 (soon to be 3) year old seems to have learned the art of negotiating on her own. If we say no, she will ask for just a little bit, expecting that we will give in 🙂

    Here via CoFL

  • July 10, 2007 at 4:30 am

    You also cant really expect a 3 year old to be able to really negotiate. I would think a child would have to be at least 5 yrs to negotiate properly.

  • July 16, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    My 5 year old daughter has been at this for I think a year now. She gets frustrated sometimes when it doesn’t work – some things just aren’t negotiable. She’s even started trying the extreme request to make the real request look like the middle ground – “I’m not going to bed tonight!” “Yes you are.” “Ok, 11 o’clock”. Her normal bed time is 8:30. It’s slightly flexible in the summer, but not THAT flexible.

    I know people say talk things over with your kids, but she learned that (and a lot more) through observation, and it is my firm belief that you do what you want your kids to do. I negotiate, both with her and her mom, so she’s learned to as well.

  • June 5, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    Your children will learn to negotiate as early as you teach them. It depends upon the child and if they really want something bad enough.
    Of course you should start teaching your child to negotiate at a young age.

  • June 26, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    My daughter is just over 2 years and we’ve been negotiating with her to help with the constant “no’s”. She doesn’t completely get it but I can see her beginning to understand the concept and most importantly it’s making her feel more empowered so it’s helping with the tantrums (which are now almost non-existent!).

    For example, when she’s in the bathtub and I want her to come out and she doesn’t, I say “how much longer do you want to be in the tub for? 10 minutes?” “Uh no. 2 minutes mommy” and I say “ok” with a grin. She’s happy because she feels in control and I’m happy because she doesn’t yet understand the concept of time! 😉


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