Toddler Cooperation Blossoms When You Give Things Away for Free

Toddlers are tough negotiators.  They also remember the feeling they got during their last negotiation with you.  Here is one way to improve a toddler’s attitude: make easy trades that they will fondly remember.

Most toddlers balk at simple requests.  Sometimes they resist the specific request, sometimes it is just that their default setting is “no!”.  Achieving agreement isn’t always easy, but the child that can understand “if-then” situations is going to be able to move off of a negative response much more quickly. Not all situations are “if-then” possibilities either.  But these are a great place to start.

In the “if-then” deal, they want something from you, and you state that there is an action that they need to take in order to get what they want.

It looks like this:  “If you want to go outside, you need to pick up these toys and put them in the bins. Then we all get our coats on and go play.”

Here’s the twist to get things started in your household: make a negotiation that they can accomplish almost without any effort. It reaps immediate rewards as soon as your child develops an understanding of the deal, and a positive memory of the dealmaking process.

It now looks like this: ” If you want to go outside, please give me the [toy you were clearly going to throw on the floor] and I will put it away.  Wow, great listening.  Now we can get coats on and go outside”.

I know, there was nothing of substance there.  Well, that would be true if you weren’t two years old.  A two year-old sees that as active participation and cooperation, with simple praise and a good outcome for him.  Do this over and over, and you have someone who should start to comprehend the negotiation of “if-then”.  After understanding has been achieved, then you can raise the stakes to something meaningful to you.

Don’t be surprised if your toddler decides to turn the tables and start an “if-then” negotiation with you!  After all, he has seen the power of this method in his own life.  A word of advice when the negotiations seem unfair ( you get 10%, her gets 90%):  that is not a “loss” for you and your views.  I know, you wouldn’t tolerate it with an adult, but toddlers aren’t adults.  Giving in even 1% is a big deal to someone who has heretofore thought that it is “my way or the highway”.  If you get a 10% concession from someone like that, it is a win for you!  And the next negotiation can be 15/85, right? Always keep in mind that this is a process and you are teaching a skill, not getting a mortgage.

Next: the amazing power of children taking ownership for their actions……

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