Do you unknowingly negotiate?


Do you ever negotiate with your kids? Do you let them engage you in a negotiation conversation? We all know that negotiating with our kids is wrong, right? Parenting is not a democracy. Our kids’ votes do not hold equal weight with ours. But sometimes, it’s easy to get wrapped up in conversations that are thinly veiled negotiations.

Just recently, I noticed my husband getting caught up in a negotiation with our oldest. We’re weaning William off melatonin (which he needed for a while as a result of his sensory processing issues), and he’s been getting out of bed, impatient that he’s not falling asleep. I sympathize with the child since it can be hard to break an old habit. Honestly, it’s gotten to the point where the melatonin had greater psychological effects than anything else. Anyway, my husband brought William upstairs to put him back in bed, and I noticed that he got into a fairly long and involved conversation with William about it all.

My kids know they are not to get out of bed after we say good night. It’s never been much of an issue with William because the melatonin always put him to sleep right away. But still, he’s 8 now, and should know better. Nonetheless, my husband quickly got wrapped up in William’s pleading and complaining. It became a bit of a negotiation with William wanting to stay up late.

I take a very firm stance when my kids attempt to negotiate with me. I end the conversation before it even starts. If it were me, I would have said, “Good night, William,” in my I’m-done-with-this-conversation voice and closed his door.

Scenarios like this aren’t your typical negotiation attempts. When I think about negotiation, it’s the child trying to get 4 cookies instead of 2, and you agree to a compromise of 3. But with both scenarios, the parent is accepting something other than the original instruction.

After offering a scenario about a child wanting to play with his trucks during lunch, the Ezzos say:

“The issue is not whether playing with a truck at lunch is right or wrong, but whether his mom is characterized by always negotiating something less than her original instructions. When parents become characterized by continually accepting a negotiated compromise, they undermine their attempts to bring their child to first-time obedience. If all is negotiable, then no instruction is absolute. When we negotiate the standard in the heat of battle, there is no true surrender, only an agreed upon suspension of conflict. Without a complete surrender, there will always be a member ready to wage war,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 125).

That’s huge! Most of us know that negotiating with our kids is wrong, but have you ever stopped to think why? To think that it could completely undermine all of our hard work in first-time obedience makes the issue all the more important. If you’ve read my eBook, you know that saying what you mean and meaning what you say are crucial in setting the stage for first-time obedience. No child is going to obey you the first time if he can quickly and easily change your mind.

So stick to your guns and don’t let him negotiate with you! And be on the lookout for those conversations that seem like innocent conversations but are really negotiation attempts!


  1. I’m curious about your use of melatonin. My daughter takes hours to fall asleep at night–literally. From the time she was about a year to 18 months old, she will stay up and talk to herself for an hour or more before bed at night. None of this was too much of a problem until she became potty trained at 2.5 yrs. She then discovered that she could get out of bed and use “potty” as an excuse. A couple of months later, baby sister was born and she has struggled even more with her sleep. Now, almost 8 months later, her sleep habits have drastically gone down hill. Whereas she used to be a 12 hour nighttime sleeper and great nap taker, she now will sleep for about 9-10 hours at night and take (maybe) a 2 hour nap. The other night she only slept for 8 hours at night. Despite putting her to bed at a reasonable hour (7 or 7:30) she won’t go to sleep until 9 or 9:30 and wake as early as 5:30. Some mornings, she’s even woken at 4 in the morning, never to go back to sleep. Not surprisingly, her behavior is a disaster and her demeanor is completely off when she is so sleep deprived. I’ve tried all sorts of things to curb this lack of sleep–varying bedtimes, taking her in for a ‘dream’ pee before I got to bed for the night, adding extra exercise to her day, moving baby sister around so her nighttime cries don’t wake the older one, installing black out curtains, etc. Nothing seems to make any noticeable difference. Except for melatonin.

    After the suggestion of a friend, I gave her some melatonin on vacation and she went to sleep immediately and woke up feeling so much better (at least as far as her behavior indicates). We kind of fell into the habit of giving it to her regularly when anything was off. She still wakes early in the morning, but at least its not taking her so long to go to sleep at night and she’s waking more rested. I’m worried about the long term effects of giving it to her (as it is not a real medical diagnosis or anything) and after reading online, we decided to not give it to her anymore. She became an absolute mess of over-tiredness. She would take FORever to sleep at night, wake early in the morning, fight us for naps. She was getting more and more tired and this over-tired cycle was only getting worse. The other morning she broke down at preschool crying and upset (totally unlike her) because she was so tired. I’m struggling to know what to do with her.

    Do you have any experience with this? What might you recommend? Would you say the benefits of the melatonin outweigh an negative side effects there might be? How do you wean them from it?

    (Sorry for the novel I wrote in your comment box. I value your opinion and thought I’d see what you might suggest in a situation similar to this one…)

  2. Hi Lonica. That’s so hard. I completely sympathize with what you’re experiencing. We started that same nightmare when William was 3, soon after his brother was born. It’s like you said. I’d put him down around 7:30 or 8:00 and he’d be up until 11 or midnight! And he had given up napping by then, so our days were really rough. (My husband was deployed at the time, too.)

    Does she show any signs of sensory processing disorder? That is the root of our sleep troubles. The signs are all over the map since it’s such a confusing disorder, but google it and see. If so, getting occupational therapy will help a ton.

    But I’ll tell you what we’ve done. I tried discipline. Didn’t work. I tried keeping a log. Didn’t see any patterns. I took him to a sleep specialist who chided me about his behavior (again, SPD that we hadn’t yet diagnosed) and told me to keep him up later. He told me to keep him up later so he wasn’t in bed for hours waiting to go to sleep. He said the longer they wait, the harder it is to fall asleep. But that meant putting him to bed at 10 or 10:30. Wasn’t going to work for me with a newborn and a deployed hubby!

    In desperation, we tried melatonin. I found the smallest dose possible, the 1mg meltable tablets. We cut that into quarters. So he was getting just a quarter of a mg. Not much at all, but it did the trick. I hear they have it in a liquid form, so you can really control how much they get.

    I swore by melatonin until this summer when I decided to see if we could wean off of it. He was on it for a couple years. There really wasn’t any weaning. Our summer was a little crazy and things went well for a while, but I think that’s because he was up late, we were on vacations, etc. And his sleep troubles have always been cyclical. We would go months with no problems, and then months where he couldn’t sleep.

    We are now committed to staying off melatonin, but I’m sorry to say I don’t have an answer. He’s still up. Tonight, he finally fell asleep at 10:30. And I’ve told him about the estrogenic effects of melatonin, which I’m worried scared him a little. But at least he doesn’t ask for it anymore. He now wants me to call the melatonin makers and ask them to make a kind that won’t make him look like a girl. :)

    I’m also teaching him to take more responsibility for it, asking him for ideas. He likes my pillow. He fell asleep easily in my bed one night (I moved him when I went to bed).

    His therapist is also working with me. She sent me a bunch of questions. And she has taught me some calming exercises that they do in therapy. Her initial suggestions are: 1) drastically reduce any screen time, especially the 2-3 hours before bedtime. We have noticed a difference with TV before bedtime. 2) Have a consistent bedtime routine, with same bedtime hours, even on weekends. Ours isn’t super consistent since they shower every other night. 3) Get at least an hour of physical exercise every day. We’re pretty good with this one. I’ll just cut and paste the whole thing from her email (below).

    Sorry for the novel. I hope this helps a little bit. Don’t give up though! I have hope that we will find a solution soon!

    · Limiting screen time significantly all day (no more than 1 hour per day), and especially no screen time in the 2 hours leading up to bedtime. It’s especially effective to have no screens on in the entire house, as even background tv noise and light (even if William isn’t watching it directly) can disrupt sleep patterns. Since William is doing iLs, limiting screen time is very important for the effectiveness of his iLs program as well.
    · Establish a “quiet time” rule for the 60 minutes before bedtime where only relaxing activities are allowed (reading, coloring, quiet calm games, activities that prepare for sleep, etc.) It can also help to create a “sensory corner” such as a tent or fort, or a large pile of pillows that William can climb into and relax in the time leading up to bedtime.
    · Quiet time alone playing in his room leading up to his bedtime routine, without distractions from siblings.
    · Dark, cool room, maybe try a sound machine with relaxing sounds, or a “white noise” machine. These help a lot of kiddos relax.
    · Keep a very consistent bedtime routine, always the same things in the same order, such as: take warm bath, brush teeth, change in to pajamas, 15 minutes of reading quietly, then lights out.
    · The rhythmic movement reflex exercises we do for William seem to be very relaxing for him, most of the time. Perhaps trying these as part of his bedtime routine might help him relax. You can also try giving William some deep pressure squeezes/massage for his back, arms, and legs. Also prompting him to practice deep breathing can be helpful.
    · Getting plenty of physical play and exercise throughout the day is crucial to help improve sleep patterns, a minimum of 1 hour each day, but more is better.
    · It helps kiddos a lot to have the exact same bedtime and wake-up time every single day, even on weekends.
    · Possibly try a weighted blanket, these can be very soothing and help kids fall asleep.