The Art of Negotiating with a Toddler

Negotiating with a toddler is exhausting. Those were the words of one of my recent Facebook status updates. It was the end of a long day and I was truly beat after having spent the day dealing with my toddler’s tantrums or trying to avoid them. It takes a lot of work and energy to care for a toddler and most importantly, patiently handle the many irrational behaviors they tend to have. It’s all part of their learning, of course, and is often due to their inability to properly explain what they’re thinking, need, or want. But, that certainly doesn’t make it any easier to manage as a parent.

Negotiating with a ToddlerSource: Michael Carian/Flickr


You may wonder what I mean in saying that I negotiated with my toddler. After all, aren’t we supposed to not give in to toddler behavior? Wouldn’t negotiating with a toddler be a parenting mistake?

When I say I negotiated with my toddler, I don’t mean that I sat there and went back and forth with him convincing him or bribing him into behaving properly. Instead, I’m talking about those small, every-day deals we make with toddlers that you probably wouldn’t even notice is an actual negotiation. Some examples of toddler negotiations that occur in our house:

  • Choosing to let him wear his robot shirt (again) because it’s just not worth the tantrum that will surely follow if I try to force him to wear a different shirt.
  • Asking him if he wants to watch a show on the iPad, so that he’ll sit down and buckle-up in the car seat without a fight.
  • Providing him a couple of choices for dinner so he feels like he’s making his own decision, but really he’s choosing what I wanted him to eat anyway.

All of these negotiations happen without them being a big deal. It’s just a matter of how they are phrased and the fact that I’m giving him some “choice” in the matter. None are make-or-break situations where I feel I’m putting down my parenting guard and allowing him to run the household. But, these small victories help avoid unnecessary tantrums. Believe me, he has enough tantrums for other situations that can’t be avoided, so I’m happy to negotiate when I can!

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