Who is the greatest negotiator in the world?


Perhaps top on a list might be one of the richest men in America, Microsoft’s, Bill Gates or perhaps Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, a man whose company posts minimal annual profits but boasts  something like 30 billion in sales.  Or maybe it  could be argued that Donald Trump could be a top contender, whether you love him or hate him he is certainly a master at negotiating a deal.

However, I would argue, none of these folks has the talent, skill,  or tenacity of a toddler.


 These pint-sized, minimally verbal, deal making machines can wear down the toughest resistance. They have no tangible assets and yet they somehow are able to achieve amazing results.   They can can achieve a win-win, win-lose,  and unlike we adults they get away with negotiating in what we would consider “bad faith” meaning they enter into negotiations with no intention of actually  coming to an agreement.

Every job that I have held since graduating college has involved negotiation.  I have negotiated pricing and services, settlements and releases. I have dealt with top-tier and bottom level attorneys and I have never come out at the bottom with anyone as often as with my own kids.


My oldest is the master of setting aside issues, and making deals for a future date.  

He is willing to be a little patient as long as he gets a long-term guarantee.  He  sets me up like this.  


Step 1.) Timing

 Pick a terribly inconvenient time and or place to start negotiations  Remember they have no tangible assets  but  they do have one powerful tool and that is the ability to make a scene or ruin an evening.  

Now before you say, ‘so big deal let them make a scene’, remember, most of the folks that say this are the same people who make rude comments about misbehaving kids in public, thus the leverage.  Kids instinctively know where they can and cannot work a situation.  Also, anyone who has more than one kid knows that constant discipline is tiring.


Step 2.) Persistence

He  will ask for  whatever it is he wants until he gets a no. Then carefully continue to push for desired outcome until he is about to get in trouble but before he starts crying.  


Step 3.) Compromise

He will then concede a temporary defeat. It goes something like this. Ok I can’t have that toy, cookie, or trip to the park right now, how about later?   Continue in this line until just about to get into trouble yet before he starts crying.


Step 4.) The win  

Here is the clincher, I presumably have the ability to give him what he wants but he understands it will not be now.  Presumably I  don’t want to escalate this to a disciplinary action.  Remember it has not gotten to that point yet, he has not made a scene and I have not escalated to point of discipline.  So I have a choice, say yes but to a future date or no and have to deal with the fall out.


Now, strictly speaking, it’s not caving to make a deal, it negotiating.

Kids are little people with wants and desires and completely dependent on us to provide.  I have a policy of delivering on a promise. I will not say yes when I mean no. Where he has mastered the technique is to start pinning down a date and time.  

If I say yes, the immediate response is to say when?  Ah, tonight, when? After dinner – When? Before bed and he will remember – he may not be able to tie his shoes but he can figure out how long a month is if necessary.


Now I’m no expert but I stay consistent with what I promise.

If I said yes to something I don’t just willy nilly take it away.  So after a few missteps I make sure to build in conditions.

So a yes is no longer yes you can have a popsicle. Its yes but only if you behave for x amount of time and  I  try not to make it impossible.


Baby Girl  uses completely different  tactics:  

Step 1: Timing

 It matters not the time or the place for the set up. But it is most effective between the hours of midnight and 3 am.


Step 2: Make a demand

The more unreasonable the better (pretty much like every attorney I have ever dealt with).  Continue demand until pretty much despondent.


Step 3: Change demand and repeat step 2.


Step 4:  Continue changing demands until you obtain a “yes” 

Usually something along the lines of, ‘tuck me in bed’, or during the day, ‘let me take a nap’.  


Step 5: Go back up the list to see if you can fool the mark into giving you something higher on the list.

Not sure how time effective this tactic is but it is certainly exhausting and it has produced some success for her, usually in the witching hours of the night.  It’s genius is in its tenacity after all there is only so much time we can make her stay in time out 😉  Also, it does eventually produce a win even if it’s no where near what she wanted.  But then I guess success is sometimes just a mindset.


Baby Boy is  perhaps the easiest 

He is focused on the win-win.  At this point he does not  ask for the stars and will usually attempt to smile and charm things into his favor.  I attribute it to observation and simpler needs.   Why fight for hours when an insistent  smile and a hug gets you a bottle and a story.


I have learned a lot from my kids

Oddly enough it has helped me negotiate.  No, I don’t  throw a tantrum when I cannot get what I want but I have used some of their strategies myself once I actually caught on to what they were doing.


Sometimes you don’t have much to negotiate with and you have to make adjustments.

From my oldest I learned timing can be a strong ally, and setting aside an immediate win can lead to a more favorable outcome.

From my baby girl I learned that persistence and tenacity can work especially when you have limited resources.  Also, sometimes you have to rethink what success means.  After all sometimes you may have to accept something small rather than nothing at all.

And then there is Baby boy, sometimes just being pleasant and asking is all you need to do. 😉 


Comment below and tell us how your kids like to negotiate with you!


2 thoughts on “How to get what you want when you have nothing to trade

  1. Thanks for a hearty laugh and a trip down memory lane. Although my adult children may still use the same tactics, sans the tantrums. 😉

    1. Although in our day and age, you could say many adults employ the tantrums too!

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