Negotiating with the Magic Word

Think fast, hot shot.

You need to get your toddler in her car seat and she wants your car keys. Do you:

  1. Refuse to hand over the keys, deal with a tantrum, and struggle to strap the kiddo in while working up a sweat because you are testing your tolerance of 90-degree heat with 80% humidity;
  2. Hand over the keys, explaining all the while that you will need them back to start the car, and deal with the 30-second tantrum as you blast the kid-friendly tunes and AC on your face to beat the heat; or
  3. Put your kid’s college fund toward a push-button car so you can let go of the keys and your stress forever?

Like many new mothers before me, I am doing many things I thought/said/swore I’d never do.

“If you sit down and let me strap you into your car seat, I’ll give you the book/unused diaper/stuffed animal/toy golf club.” These words—and many others like them—come out of my mouth at least once on most days. Sometimes more, depending on the day.

I’m not bribing my kid. I’m teaching her how to negotiate. We both get what we want. I get my kid safely strapped into the car. And she gets something to entertain her during the ride. At least I try.

Just hand these over and hope the panic button goes untouched.

In the ongoing trend of “things I’ll never do as a parent,” I am constantly realizing how little I really knew and still actually know. But I’m starting to realize that parenting isn’t always perfect moments; sometimes it’s just a perfect storm. Some results can be achieved only when the conditions are exactly right: the stars are aligned, humidity is low, it’s partly cloudy, and there’s a nice breeze. And other times, results can be achieved with some fierce negotiation skills on the part of both parent and child.

The willpower my one-and-a-half-year-old possesses should never be discounted because it’s coming from a tiny package. I’m constantly amazed by the tenacity she displays. While this makes me very proud, it also scares the bejeezus out of me. Because there’s sure to be more as she gets older.

I know the whole “reasoning” thing will surely come into play in the future, as I try to use my superior adult logic to convince her why she can’t have that cookie, or that toothbrush in her mouth while she runs half-naked around the house. And, I’m sure she’ll put those same reasoning skills to work when she’s trying to convince me of things she wants as well. For the time being, though, it’s amazing what she can accomplish with a few two-word phrases, most of which include the magic word “pease” (“please” without the “l”) and an intense insistence on the right cup from which to drink water. 

I’ve learned that choices are our friends. The more choices available, the more likely she’ll be happy. But then that parenting stress kicks in: Is there such a thing as too many choices?  

sippy cup options

The options available are those as seen, or sans lid! Double the fun!


Has a kid ever been offered every possibility you possess and still been unhappy? Let me tell you, the answer is yes, and now I am in a tailspin over sippy cup options, when the real and pressing concern is a drama-free car ride.

I realize in isolation these things are small potatoes and it’s not the end of the world if I have to use a sippy cup or storybook to get things done. My sanity and a peaceful parent-child relationship mean a lot to me, and for now, I’m gonna practice negotiating whenever possible. Plus, who can say no to a sweetly voiced “pease”? In our house it’s the magic word. 

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