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Negotiating with Children

You would have thought that in 5 years I’d have learnt something about negotiating with children. Or at least with my children. But I still fall down the same old traps. I’m never quite quick enough with my distraction and I almost always lose the negotiation.

Negotiating with Children is way harder than with grown ups

Negotiating with Children is way harder than with grown ups

Take today as a random example. Tilly and I were in the car after I’d picked her up from nursery at lunchtime. We had agreed to go and have lunch at the garden centre (not quite as strange as it sounds, there’s a very nice cafe there) but she threw in a curveball in the shape of the playground.

“Well we’ll have lunch first and then go to the playground. Ok?” She looked woebegone. I had just ruined her plan.

“No Mummy, I want to go to the playground now and do keep uppies with my balloon.” Yes really.

My children have the ability to go from fine to devastated in a very short space of time. I was getting worried as I could hear the anguish in her voice. I upped my negotiation.

“We could go to the playground after a lovely lunch at the garden centre though, that would be nice.” I said with a lot of hope in my voice. Just to be clear when Eliza sets her heart on something it’s almost impossible to change her mind without a full scale war so I enter these negotiations with the weight of experience against me, assuming that Tilly will be the same.

“No Mummy I want to go to the playground first actually. Then to the garden centre for a lovely lunch.”

“OK, so how about we go to the garden centre, you can get one of the special little trollies for children, we can find some nice plants for the garden and then go and have our lovely lunch, and then go to the playground.”

I wasn’t driving at this point by the way, the car was still stationary outside the nursery. She was definitely thinking about it I could see, I think I actually crossed my fingers while I awaited her answer.

She smiled. Relief washed over me.

“Ok Mummy, we will go to the garden centre and find some nice plants for the garden then have a lovely lunch, then can we find some gloves for me with butterflies on because mine are lost?”



“Yes gloves with butterflies on Mummy for the garden.”

“Oh, gardening gloves. Ok yes we’ll see if they have some of those.” This lunch trip was costing me more with every passing second. My negotiation skills are actually pretty rubbish. The net result of this discussion was this:

Mummy 1 (lunch before the playground)
Tilly 4 (lunch, plants, gloves and playground)

But I silently and inwardly rejoiced. I got my 3 year old to do something without a wobbler! Yes I will take my bow now. It’s pathetic.

So when after the lovely lunch, the plants that will die instantly because there’ll be a frost next week and the gloves that they didn’t sell had all been ‘done’ we drove the 1/2 mile to the playground.

“No Mummy not this playground, this one’s a rubbish playground!”

“Really? But you said you wanted to go to the playground?” Children are impossible.

“I wanted to go to the playground with the ship Mummy, the big ship and I want to be pirate and you can be a sailor.”

She meant the bigger, better and all together more superior playground in a different town entirely that we’d never get to and back in time to pick up Eliza. I braced myself for the next round of negotiating with a 3 year old.

Actually I just googled this very subject and found this article, which is pretty useful as it happens.



  1. Fantastic blog post which made me smile immensely. My little one is almost 5 and I too am surprised to find that my negotiation skills frequently (i.e. more often than not) let me down. Clearly, 5 years isn’t long enough to learn! lol

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