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Negotiating With A Pre-Schooler: Yay Or Nay?

Christine Coppa

Iiii-yiii-iiii, I had one of those mornings. As a self-employed writer, sometimes I am required to work in a magazine office—like today. I absolutely love it! Love putting on a dress, makeup and getting an iced coffee on the way to work. This also means the morning is rushed. Before I go to work, JD gets dropped off at summer camp. Today he did not feel like eating breakfast, washing up or getting dressed. Stress.

I managed to get half-a-pancake, two strawberries and a cup of whole milk into his belly. I did this while he played with cars at the table and I said: “Put fuel in your belly”—and handed him a fork of pancake and berry. “Yum,” I said. Then he chewed the piece for five-OMG-minutes.

I had to jump in the shower so after he semi-ate, I put on PBS and told him to play. I took a three-minute-shower (I never wash my hair on work-out-of-the-office nook-days). In those 3-minutes JD appeared in the bathroom, whipped the curtain open and said: “Mom, I am cooking you up a delicious breakfast!” This meant he was cooking in the play kitchen and expected me to sit at the table, or, “diner” as he calls it and eat and then order more and more and more food—like a half-hour of food. We play this game on work-from-home days. I can’t blame him.

When I emerged from the shower I noticed a plate of pizza, eggplant and French fries waiting for me at the table, but JD was now engrossed in Legos and cartoons. I quickly dressed and slipped into the bathroom to apply bronzer, mascara and lip gloss (love summer makeup!)

“Jack, come brush your teeth with your NEW Lightening McQueen toothbrush!!!! YAY” I called.

“No! You need to eat your breakfast, Mom. I cooked it up special!” he said. BREAK MY HEART.

“Teeeeeeth!” I said in a singy voice, hahah.


The clock was ticking and I needed to get him washed up, dressed and both of us out the door. I walked calmly into the living room and got down on his level.

“Mommy needs to eat her breakfast in the bathroom today, while you wash up, OK?” I asked.

“No, Mom. You need to eat at the diner!” he said.

“The only way I can eat this delish meal is if you brush your teeth,” I said this sternly, but didn't raise my voice (I try really, really, really hard not to yell, ever). “1, 2, 2-and-1/2,” I said. He got up and carried the food into the bathroom.

Sometimes I pick my battles. I negotiated with my pre-schooler today and ya know what? We went to camp and work happy! There was no tantrum, or yikes, a raised mommy-voice that would have made me feel like sh*t all day long. Worked for us. And hello, I ate pizza, egglant and fries for breakfast! Yum-o! How to stop yelling at your kids (I LOVE this article!)

Do you negotiate with your kids? Pick your battles?