Every night our 2-1/2 y/o gets put into bed at 7PM. Five minutes after my husband and leave the room she starts with her negotiations:
“Mommy, I want drink!”
“Daddy, I need potty!”
“Heyyyyyy, I need kiss!”
“I want baby in bed.” (Whatever stuff animal or doll she requires that night)
“I need say bye to Titan!” (Titan is our dog)
“I want hug.”
Her demands vary in the degree of her desire and willingness to stay up. These negotiations don’t last more than 10 to 15 minutes. Sometimes they are ingenious. I am blown away at her ability to practice voicing her wants and needs. Kudos to the little one. Yesterday afternoon she used a new one.
We were on our way back home from seeing friends. She had not had a nap. So, as we were getting closer to the house I said, “Kali bug, when we get home you have to take your nap.” She immediately whined, “No way!” I said, “Yeah!” She stayed quiet for a few seconds.
“Mommy is my best friend.”
“Aw, that’s so sweet. Thank you! You are my best friend too.”
“Mommy, no nap to Kali.”
“Yeah…still you are getting a nap and now even more because I am your best friend. This is even a better reason for napping. Best friends get cranky and then mean, and then no more best friends. We need to rest. You understand?”
“Oh, yeah. No more cranky. And mommy and Kali bestest friend?” She questioned it so sweet.
“Yeap….happy rested best friends!”
She took her nap without a word. I give her an immense amount of credit for her ability to give it a fighting chance to get out of doing things. She’s strengthening her awareness, her argumentative gene, preparing it for the future. Who knows, she may become an attorney fighting for Humanitarian Rights because the way she tries to come up with questions and answers at this age is remarkable.
The art of negotiation begins the moment we are born. We learn that when we are hungry, wet, or need attention we cry. We scream. Then we stop until the next time that we need what we need. We are taught by our environment how to challenge the negotiations. We learn our parents’ behaviors and reactions. And, this is where we learn the necessity to be heard. We are conditioned that if we cry or scream we can be heard. Some folks spend the rest of their lives screaming for attention. Others, are heard with the softest whisper. How our parents reacted and conditioned behaviors becomes the subconscious habits of our communication skills.
Answering a child all the time,”Because I say so,” doesn’t work anymore. It’s sometimes a demeaning authoritative behavior. I want to know the why’s, what’s and how’s…and so do children. I used to say this all the time with my other 6 kids. This little one is teaching me that I need to be mindful of my reactions and behaviors. Negotiation is a two way street. I am not going to sit there and argue with a two year old, but I am going to try and make her aware of why I have made the decision. Because they understand. Never underestimate a child. They know when you are full of crap and when you are being totally real. They are born with a lie detector mechanism that lets them know you aren’t being authentic in your answers and actions. Also, a child deserves the same attention that you would give an adult. They need to know that they matter.
Years ago I watched the famous novelist, Toni Morrison, in an interview with Oprah. She was sharing how she wrote her first novel long hand on a notebook. She had her children’s snot on pages, along with food stains and even some small amount of vomit. She learned, as her creativity was shooting from all directions, that she needed to pay attention to her kids. At one specific moment she looked up and recognized that she needed to be there with whatever was going on. Her writing had to wait till they didn’t require her energy, either when they slept or went to school. She needed to always be mindful to answering them with truth and authenticity. I have never forgotten this interview, especially now with another young child. I am reminded that just being in her presence is not enough at times. She requires eye-to-eye contact and attention. I understand because, I too, require it from my loved ones.
We grow up understanding the art of negotiations, compromises, arbitration, and mediation. There are folks walking around not being heard, because since they were children they weren’t regarded. (Who remembers that old comment: Children are meant to be seen and not heard?) There are others going around harassing the world with their negativity and illogical disposition because they were catered to their every whim and now assume the world owes them everything.
Be mindful and conscious of your negotiations and how you act and react to the world around you. Partake openly and curiously with others. Ask questions. Give answers. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinions in a loving and compassionate way. Bulldozing is not the answer. Manipulation is disturbing and disgusting as well. You have been given the ability, as a divine human being, to use your voice as a tool to make life better for others. Be aware of your tone, your language, and your energy. You are magnificent and the less ego you use to magnify your intentions, the louder you are heard. Silence is also the wisest teacher in your world! Always act accordingly whether it’s through actions or loving words. Your strength always shows through your energy.