Mommy A to Z

Motherhood, Alphabetized.

N is for… Negotiation (Or, 6 Negotiating Strategies Used By My 6-Year-Old)



When it comes to kids, everything in life is a negotiation. I want them to eat vegetables. They want to be served ice cream in bed immediately upon waking. I want them to go to sleep at a reasonable hour. They want to throw a rave — complete with glow sticks and candy necklaces — in the living room. Fortunately, Mommy tends to win most battles. However, recently my 6-year-old has been taking her negotiation skills to the next level, clearly adding Getting to Yes to her collection of Pinkalicious and Fancy Nancy books. Here are 6 negotiating techniques used by my 6-year-old, in order of least to most effective.

1. “I’ll be your best friend.” I suppose I could give you the standard parenting response, “It’s my job to be your mom, not your friend.” But the truth is you’re always going to be my bestie, whether you like it or not. There’s no one I’d rather talk to about the great dramas of life — whether that’s love and relationships, or ponies and monkey bars. I’ll always be here for you to confide in, to laugh with, to scream at, long after you’ve moved out and traded Mommy for some guy or group of friends you meet for witty banter over cocktails. Sorry, kid: whether or not I let you watch Monster High today, I’m afraid you’re stuck with me…for life.   

2. “I’m going to tell the police/the president/Granny on you.” While I’m sure the local police department or “President Barack O-Mama” would be concerned to learn you’re being deprived of Laffy Taffy, I’ll take my chances. I’ll admit narcing me out to Granny is a slightly more sinister threat, but as I’m pretty sure she’d side with Mommy, I’m not too worried. Besides, I’m sure Granny already knows. Because if there’s one thing I’ve taught you, it’s that mothers have eyes everywhere…

3. “You’re not invited to my birthday party.” Well, considering that it’s September, and your birthday is in April, I think I’ve got a good shot of getting back on the guest list by then. After all, I’m sure even Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj will have patched things up by then. But let’s face the facts here. Who do you think organizes and runs these parties? Unless you plan on using your allowance to hire a professional party planner, I’m your best shot for welcoming seven with style.

4. “You let Little Brother do it.” If George Orwell had known my daughter, he might have named the vigilant dictator in 1984 “Big Sister” instead of “Big Brother,” because she’s always watching. Watching Little Brother, that is. If he has one more Cheerio in his bowl than she does, I get a full report. If I tell him he’s not getting a story, as a punishment for some transgression, and then I forget and read him The Cat in the Hat, I’ll be hearing about it for months. My daughter only wants a lollipop in the name of justice, since her brother got one three weeks ago. And how can I argue with justice?

5. “You said I could do it this morning.” Unfortunately, my daughter has caught on to “Mommy brain,” or the fact that I’m easily distracted and don’t always remember what I said at any given time. “You said I could have chocolate if I finished my homework” certainly sounds like something I might have said. And, since I’m a total blank as to everything that happened pre-breakfast, my daughter often wins with this one. Clearly I need some ginkgo biloba. Or a nanny cam.

6. “I love you.” I admit it: this one packs a punch. And since it’s often followed by “You’re so pretty” or “You’re the best Mommy ever,” I’m swayed by this powerful, irrefutable logic more often than I’d like to admit. What can I say? Even tough negotiators like Mommy have a weakness, and little girls giving hugs and kisses are my Achilles Heel. Well played, kid.

As my daughter gets older and wiser, she’s getting infinitely more creative in her attempts to get what she wants. But I’m determined to (mostly) stand my ground. After all, when your two-year-old starts pleading “I’ll be your best friend” when he wants something, it’s a sign that little ears are listening. And so, if you’re looking for me, I’ll be downing my ginkgo and trying to get back on the guest list for my daughter’s birthday party. If the president hasn’t put me in Mommy jail for a hundred years by then, that is.

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