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Are you negotiating with your kids too much?

January 11, 2011

The word “No” has been on my mind a lot today. This morning during a session with a coaching client, we spoke about how to balance allowing her 2 year old some freedom to say “NO!” and express herself and her growing independence with the parents’ goals of setting and maintaining some limits. Then this afternoon on my way home from a preschool special education client, I heard this wonderful little piece (about 10 minutes) on the Tell Me More program on the radio. If you have a few minutes, I encourage you to listen.

I’ve been pretty comfortable with saying “no” to my kids throughout my parenting career, but as the early childhood specialist stated during the program, my kids have definitely learned how to negotiate with me. I was thinking about how my oldest, now 15 year old, daughter has really learned how to go about asking me for things to get the result she wants. She knows to never ask me for anything after 10pm because I will always say no at that hour. She has also learned that if she acknowledges at the outset any inconvenience her requests may cause me, I am highly likely to do what she wants. For example, when she called to ask me to go to the store, buy some baked goods, and drop them off at a school function – within the next 30 minutes (!), I did it solely because of how nicely she asked me. And finally, she has also learned to thank me. It’s amazing how well that works as a positive reinforcement for me!

So what about you? Do you have trouble saying “no” or setting limits? What have your kids learned from negotiating with you?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2011 8:31 pm

    My 11-yr old knows that her initial pitch needs to be persuasive enough to at least invite a negotiation. I try to stick to the rule that once you get a “no”, the answer is “no”. My 6-yr old is still learning. He starts out with direct, yes/no questions, and then he tries to start negotiating after I say “no”. It’s tiresome repeating day after day, “this is not a negotiation.” But I assume he’ll get the message eventually.

    Negotiation (including how, when and knowing your audience) is a skill that I intentionally try to teach them. Your daughter seems to have picked up those skills; did you consciously teach her those things or did she learn for herself over time?

    Oh, and regarding children telling parents “NO”, unless I ask a yes/no question, it’s absolutely unacceptable to tell me “NO” in the spirit of defiance.

    • drcuneo permalink*
      January 11, 2011 10:27 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment Amy. I completely agree ~ the repetition can get tiresome! Your question is interesting. I hadn’t really thought about whether I was directly teaching my daughter how to negotiate, but my husband and I have definitely intentionally taught her to be appreciative and to be aware of the cause-effect relationship between her behavior and her effect on other people. I think applying that awareness to negotiation is something she picked up on her own.
      And regarding children telling parents, “No,” I have a very low tolerance for that myself, especially given the ages of my children (9, 13, and 15). However, when you’re dealing with a two year old, I think it’s something you should expect as part of normal development. I wouldn’t advocate giving in to your two year old just because they said “no,” but I also wouldn’t take it too personally. It’s an opportunity to validate and teach about feelings and emotions while also upholding parental limits.

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