Living With A Negotiator

Some days I just roll with it.  It’s our normal, after all.  And some days, I stop and realize just how … different …. my kid is.

Today was one of those days.  We were starting vision therapy (apparently the Engineer has some major tracking difficulties) and the therapist was explaining what he needed to work on.  The Engineer thought it was too much work.  Especially the part we’re supposed to do at home.  So he started trying to negotiate his way out of the work!


She stopped and looked at him about 30 minutes into the appointment and told him he was so smart!  He looked at her in confusion and she repeated it.  He smiled, and I promptly squashed him a bit by telling him that hard work and being polite will help him far more in this situation than smart.


The whole conversation got me thinking.  Doesn’t every family negotiate over who gets what color plate at dinner?  I thought everyone had to count birthday presents and make sure each kid gets the same number because they WILL remember “she got more presents than I did!” even if it’s halfway around the year later?  Doesn’t everyone balance on the fine line of “fair” and “equal?”

Maybe we’re the only ones who have to deal with this.  It’s like living with a crocodile – always poised for the attack.  No matter how trivial the situation, we have to negotiate it with my oldest.  Even something as simple as a stop at a store comes with a full set of strictly defined parameters and give and take.  We have to specify everything or he takes advantage of the loopholes.  “You didn’t tell me to stay in the movie theatre!”


Living life with a negotiator is complex.  Nothing is simple.  Everything is exhausting and over-analyzed and discussed in triplicate.  Because if you keep asking, they might just forget and say something different!   (That strategy often backfires because I get frustrated and start saying “no!”)


One day, I want to be able to say “we’re doing XYZ” and the kids just do it instead of promptly coming back with “I don’t want to do that, can we do QRS instead?”  Or read a few chapters of a book together without hearing “can we read 2 more?  1 more?  A few more pages?”


One day of pleasant agreement instead of intense negotiations.  It would be lovely.  I swear, this kid has a law career ahead of him and he’s practicing on me.



Note: some of my readers are probably thinking “you’re the parent, just tell him to do it.”  It’s not quite that simple.  There’s no easy way to force a kid to obey you if they decide they don’t have to.  Especially if they have very few motivators.   The Engineer requires a logic and reasoning in order to obey a request – it has to make sense to him.  He also has to feel some level of control or his anxiety spikes.  Parenting him is like riding a rollercoaster of power struggles, and it’s extremely challenging.  


  1. That intensity would be so challenging. Early on with mine, I pointed to a scripture that Jesus said. For us as Christians it just helped me. It is John 14 verse 15. In this Jesus tells his disciples If you love me keep my commands. In a Modern sense that means that Jesus said to his disciples the way that you show me you love me is just by doing what I ask. That means sometimes Not questioning, But trusting that He knows best. A parent shows a child love every single day doing any number of things that they ask and need. Maybe explaining to a child that they show you by their actions how much the love you by just doing what you ask. It is not wrong for them to ask how and why you do certain things and you decide certain things but .. I feel so much more loved by my children when I don’t have to fight them to get them to do what is best for them. Sometimes flipping the coin and asking them how would it make them feel if everytime they wanted to eat you asked them a million questions refusing to just go along and get them something to eat. Sometimes kids do not understand how exhausting it can be and it is just a Habit to question everything.. But as a parent that leaves you emotionally depleted feeling unloved. It is not meant by the child to be that way.. but it is exhausting just the same. So that is what I did and it helped us.. I hope that it helps you as well.


  2. My 14 yo DD is very much the same way. She and her father team up, and I have to constantly be very careful with my words so that they will not be debated ad nauseum until I give in to a compromise in their favor. I understand the exhaustion you feel and, like you, dream of the day when I say something and members of my household just agree and go with it.


    • I tried that. They argued about it! Silly kids 🙂 (and reverse psychology doesn’t work either, I tried that too.)


  3. I sure do get this! My 11 yr old son…..everything has to be arbitrated!
    He really needs to make a career out of it…and one where he gets paid by the word!


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