Monday, March 16, 2009

Deal? Or No Deal?

It turns out I have a title that I was completely unaware I possessed. Negotiator.

Lukas is at that age where he is beginning to assert his independence with increased frequency. As most parents of children over 18 months of age already know, this strong willed nature often manifests itself at inopportune times. This is when parenting becomes challenging for a whole new set of reasons than the ones we had to deal with in that first year and a half.

Making sure our children get the proper amount of rest, have the proper amount mix of mental and physical stimulation, and eat a healthy and balanced meal would seem straightforward enough. Especially if you read all those parenting books. However, these tasks become even more challenging when your newly independent-minded child decides he want to figure out the world at his own pace and in his own way and is not always inclined to play by your rules.

So, it has been a learning experience for us as Mrs. LIAYF and I have looked for new ways to accomplish those above stated goals without resorting to other common forms of discipline which we have agreed not to use. Our mantra since his birth has been "Distraction, Distraction, Distraction." Rather than getting upset with our son for exploring new things that he shouldn't be into, which is inherently what children do to learn, we will introduce something else to him to distract him. Giving him something he can have usually dissuades him from playing with something he can't have. For instance, we gave him his own kitchen drawer with his "kitchen stuff" in it. This keeps him out of off-limits cabinets and allows him to explore.

We are also now becoming experienced negotiators with our son. After about age one, he began to possess the ability to understand "if you do this, then this happens" logic. If Lukas stops half way through his dinner and asks for a cookie, we make a deal. Finish this amount of your dinner (usually plenty for a 20 month old) and then you can have a cookie. He will then eagerly finish that food in anticipation of the payoff. If he has played in the house and wants to go outside, we tell him that we can go outside once we have cleaned up most of the toys scattered about. Again, this does the trick. To my amazement this is working tremendously well so far.

I'm not fooling myself into thinking that we will always be this successful negotiating with Lukas, but am actually fairly surprised at how well it is currently working. Often, in the midst of completing the negotiated task, he will have forgotten about what he originally wanted. Lukas seems to be a bright kid, but he also is a good-natured boy as well. And, we praise as often as we can when he does things right - like petting the cats instead of hitting them!

Every day is a new experience for first time parents. How about you, readers. How much do you negotiate with your young children? How has that worked out?
As for us, for now we will just continue to deal with challenges as they present themselves.


Eric said...

Maybe I can negotiate my son to finally come out of the womb! LOL!
Any tips?

Steve said...

I doubt there is a day that goes by without some small negotiation with my (now 3.5 year old) son. Generally it works well.

My 19 month old daughter on the other hand is much more of a "it's my way or the highway" sort of girl. But even she will cease screaming instantly if I make her the right offer.

SciFi Dad said...

Whenever this subject comes up, I always (jokingly) say "We don't negotiate with terrorists!"

(My wife doesn't find it so funny.)

In all seriousness, we try to give my daughter the illusion of choice (i.e. you can have carrots or cucumber for dinner as opposed to "what do you want?") and offer compromises ("OK fine... you can have both").

Momo Fali said...

I must say, I have learned to be the master negotiator. My son has to get blood draws a lot, and there have been so many painful medical I've had to get creative with the bribes!

Being us... said...

We often "bribe" (as we call it) with Jacob. It usually works and we are surprised he hasn't picked up on it yet. We will do the whole "this is the last bite and you can get down" and he will eat it. Then 10 "last bites" later we are pleased with what he has eaten and let him down. Poor kid, one of these days he is going to realize his parents are liers! ((GRIN))

James (SeattleDad) said...

@Eric - Has he turned yet? If not, the flashlight trick did wonders for us.

@Steve - Looks like I'm in it for the long haul. I'm sure Lukas won't be so amiable in another couple of years.

@Scifi - I sure hope Lukas doesn't begin to terrorize us. No signs at all of that. I think he will stay on the good side of the force.

@Momo Fali - Sounds like you learned from the school of hard knocks. You must be very good at the whole negotiation thing.

@Mandy - LOL. Yeah, one day it's all going to click and they will see us for the liars that we really are.

Jason Roth said...

Z-dud is the master of manipulation so negotiation no longer works, but threats seem to work.

Ed said...

The negotiating works well for a time...the your kids learn the art of a counter-offer.

Anonymous said...

I am dead meat. This kid has me wrapped. Luckily the wife is a lawyer. For many reasons.

James (SeattleDad) said...

@Vegasdad - We haven't resorted to threats yet. We are still in that extended honeymoon period.

@Ed - Ha! The counteroffer. Then you know your kid will be a brilliant negotiator himself.

@DC Urban Dad - I know who will be doing the negotiating for the parents in your house. Sounds like you would cave every time.

Captain Dumbass said...

When it works it's good, but most times I'm throwin down my bad cop routine.

Eric said...

He has turned... it's pointin in the right direction... he just needs to frickin stick his head out! LOL! jk

James (SeattleDad) said...

@CDA - I need a lot of practice on my Bad Cop. I can't keep a straight face.

@Eric - It's time to pull out the big to speak. lol.

Anonymous said...

healthy, balanced meals + toddler = FAIL lol soon he will pick one or two things he'll eat and will ONLY eat those.

didn't have to do tons of negotiating with the g-kid cuz i'm the mean grandmother who means NO when i say no. lol he toes the line pretty good when he's with me. now with mommy....that's a whole nother story :)

James (SeattleDad) said...

@Nonna - I hope we avoid the seriously picky stage. I am sure that is just dream talking there, but hey, a guy can hope.