• J Mess

THE NEGOTIATOR

There's no winning in toddler diplomacy.


If there's such a thing as the afterlife, I've always believed I'd come back as a housecat. That is seriously THE life. Lounging around all day. Being adorable while people feed you, dote on you and all you do is give everyone attitude. But recently I think my skills might be better used if I come back as a diplomat. I've been honing these skills daily as the mother of toddler. Strategy, manipulation, persuasion, flattery, Jedi mind games. Listen at this rate I should work for the UN because I could probably broker world peace. Dear North Korea, I LOVE the outfit you picked out today. That purple and red striped shirt goes great with the green camo pants. Do you maybe want to try a different shirt? No? Alright then, that's okay! Great job! (We'll pick our battles.) Now, if you wouldn't mind giving up your nukes, I'll give you a lollipop!!! FINE, what about 3 lollipops? NO? What if daddy gives it to you??? Well, unfortunately that is the only choice you have. I suggest you choose wisely. Or else. Okay you can do it tomorrow. But you better do it or I'm going to throw away all your toys. On second thought, maybe I'm actually not good at this at all.


My mom keeps reminding me not to threaten anything I'm not going to follow through with, but honestly anything that will actually motivate Nathan to listen to me is something I'm clearly not going to do. I can't tell you how many times over the holidays I told Nathan he wasn't going to get his Hannukah presents. I think at one point it happened literally hourly. And of course I gave them all to him, not the "other little boy" I threatened to give them to instead. I've tried the I'll take away your iPad! But then what am I going to do to entertain him? You're not going to the party! But I want pizza and cake and to get him out of my house. I'll throw away all your toys! Except I paid for those. I'll put you in your crib! This one seems to work, but then I have to listen to him screaming until I go retrieve him. I decided that the positive might work better than the negative. If you do what I want, I'll GIVE you something. Can't hurt right? Classic bribery is a sure winner.


Nathan on the other hand is a terrible negotiator. At dinnertime when I tell him he has to eat 3 more pieces of his chicken nuggets, he contemplates, and then counter-offers 5 more pieces. Sure kid.

I was fairly confident this might be the right approach. So I tried it the other day when I had a client conference call, that I needed to present on, at 3:30 with both kids home. The chances of this going off without a hitch were slim, and I recognized that. Sydney cannot be controlled with elicit bribes. If you stop crying, I'll give you your bottle would definitely work, however I can't deliver that during this conference call. Luckily she seemed content, but she remained a wild card. Nathan I offered chocolate chip muffins, a giant bowl of bamba and anything else that might occupy his mouth while he watched his iPad and hopefully kept quiet. I explained to him that mommy had to make a phone call and she needed to talk to some people, so it would be great if he could sit quietly for a little bit and if he did, I would give him a lollipop. He seemed interested, so I dialed into the meeting and waited for everyone to join. However while I was waiting, he kept running over to me and curiously asking "when's your phone call?!" At this point I realized that this was not going to work, so I reopened negotiations. What if I give you the lollipop now? Can you keep quiet? He looked unsure. Clearly this kid came to play hardball today. What if I give you one now and one after you've been quiet for my phone call? He agreed and left triumphantly with his candy. Except as soon as it was my turn to present on the call, Nathan came running over exuberantly proclaiming "Hiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!," and Syd started to cry. Moving forward it seems I need to put a clause in my contracts about what happens if you break our deals since he cannot be trusted. And obviously I gave him the other lollipop as I ran upstairs praying nobody heard him. If you didn't foresee this exact outcome, you haven't been paying attention...


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