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How to Negotiate with Your Kid

Five-year-old Vivian Lipson was determined to get around her school's no-toys-allowed rule, so one morning, in order to bring her stuffed monkey, Bumpy, to class, Vivian wrapped him around her neck and explained that he would be her scarf. "She made the case that if Bumpy was an article of clothing, he didn't count as a toy," says Vivian's mom, Stephanie Dolgoff, a Parenting editor.

Vivian's litigation skills are typical for kids her age. "They're able to think abstractly and use reasoning more significantly than before," says Bob Lancer, author of Parenting With Love, Without Anger or Stress. They no longer just do as they're told; they come up with alternatives on their own.

Frustrating, yes, but don't resort to "case dismissed" right away. Instead:

Credit creativity. Say "You're right! Dairy foods do make bones strong, but that doesn't mean you can have ice cream before dinner." She'll know you're listening -- and get a taste of triumph even if the final word is "no."

Offer a reality check. Give an actual reason why she can't have her way ("Because I said so" doesn't count!). Vivian's mom went with "What could happen if you bring Bumpy? He might get taken away, right?"

Let her win sometimes -- as long as the issue isn't a safety concern or a nonnegotiable rule. It'll help encourage her problem-solving skills and get you off the hook for a retrial.