When kids reach age 5 they enter what some parents call the “little lawyer” phase. Everything becomes a negotiation. They want just 15 more minutes of play before bed, or they outright refuse to eat certain foods. Parents often find themselves frustrated at the fact that every situation becomes a prolonged standoff. And it can be difficult to know when to put your foot down, when you should negotiate, and when to let your child ‘win’ the argument. Here are some tips for dealing with the little lawyer of your family.
Softening an ultimatum with choices is a good way to avoid a fight or a more drawn-out negotiation. Instead of saying “Go clean your room!” try “What part of your room do you want to clean first?” or “What music do you want to put on while you clean your room?” Simply building some choice into your command can be enough to satisfy that budding need for independence.
Take advantage or your child’s newly developing empathy when negotiating. If they refuse to eat the vegetables you cooked, turn the tables on them. Ask, “What would you do if you were in my shoes?” or “How do you think I feel when you don’t eat the food I worked hard cooking for you?” This is precisely the kind of thinking you want to encourage in your child, and can often lead to a truce both sides can accept.
However, you’ll have a hard time negotiating with your child if they don’t understand that you mean business. Let them assert their autonomy, but draw a clear line in the sand as to when you’re engaging in a negotiation and when you’re issuing a command. Giving your child some leeway to exercise choice and negotiation in certain cases will make a command that much more meaningful.
Don’t forget to have some fun with negotiations. If your child wants 15 minutes more playtime tonight, let him or her plead their case. You may be surprised how convincing they can be!