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Don't Let Your Kids Break the Rules- Negotiate Them

"But I don't want to clean my room!"

Rules and expectations. We all had them growing up, whether we realized it or not. We still have them to this day. We know what's expected of us, what our responsibilities are and what we can or should not do. Children love to test them and force us into an internal debate about who really is in charge here.

Negotiation is a skill, an art form that is only truly appreciated from 10 feet away. It takes the ability to read not only what the other person wants, but what they might give in order to get it, and how your own personal wants could fit into this. The reward could be simple like a payment for a chore. But it could also involve conditions and consequences. As your child understands social problem solving better, along with the concept of Theory of Mind, he may become quite the debater.

Ultimately, you will run into a time when your child refuses to do something or wants something you already declined. There could be the "I said no," declaration; however every so often you should test their negotiation skills. This will help them learn to work in gray areas; the ones between yes and no. Think about what you're willing to sacrifice on, maybe the room doesn't need to be cleaned right now, but you could offer an extra day to the deadline if the living room floor is vacuumed too.


Here are a few things to consider when negotiating with your child:

Do you want to trade or give in?

It's okay to give in sometimes. This shows your child flexibility, which is a skill your little one is probably working on. Some items are better to offer a trade or a path to earning it. This is your choice, but also see what your child might be thinking too.

How much value is in the task/reward?

Some items should require more effort than others. Allowing your child to see that an extra cookie takes less to earn than a new video game helps them create this value system.

What is your child willing to offer?

Let your child have a voice in the bartering. See what he thinks is a good offer to get out of the chore or gain that extra treat.

Why does your child want the item?

Don't be afraid to ask that infamous "why" question! See what her reasoning is and pick her brain a little. Does she want to stay up past her bed time? Is there a TV special on later that she wants to see? What will happen in the morning if she doesn't go to bed on time? What's another way she could watch the show without staying up too late? Could we watch half the show tonight and record the rest? Ask her these questions and see how she problem solves to get your agreement.


Negotiating is not a trait for spoiled brats. It is a skill that good social problem solvers use to help achieve their dreams. It's important that we foster and encourage this skill which will help our children become adept in cooperation and leadership. They will not always get their demands, that's part of negotiation- give and take; and sometimes it fails! By working together with your child to understand and get around the rules, you're teaching them to be well rounded adults in the community.

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