Oldest, 9. Youngest two, 6.
I always begin negotiations using full sentences.
If we had recordings of meal time at our house, the transcripts would back me up on that. When our children decide they don’t want to eat, they begin roaming from their seats. Evidently, they feel that if they look busy, we won’t bother them.
“Sit in your seat and eat your dinner, please.”
When that doesn’t work, I break the thoughts up to make them easier to understand.
“Sit in your seat. Eat your dinner.”
When that doesn’t work, I switch to a shortened version.
“Sit and eat, please.”
When that doesn’t work? I go single-syllable. “Sit. Eat.”
This brings us to The Art of the Deal; a step-by-step process handed down from one sibling to the next. I don’t know when they hold their meetings, but everyone seems to be paying attention.
It begins with, “I’m full.”
Then the head tilts to one side and a pained expression takes over the face. Of course everyone at the table can see that the silverware isn’t even dirty yet.
I’ll say, “No, I think there’s room in that little belly for four fish sticks.”
The bidding begins.
“One,” they’ll say.
“Okay, eat three.”
“But, I don’t like ‘em.”
“You liked them last week,” my wife will say.
“They look the same as they did last week,” I say.
“I don’t want to eat three.”
“Okay, two fish sticks. But, that’s it!” Saying things like this makes me feel as if I’m the one in control.
Evidently, The Art of the Deal states that once the deal is made, you let it stand and move on to delay tactics. It’s at this stage of the process that you may notice the child doing things like willingly talking about their school day. Anything to get the parents to forget the Deal.
I realize these ploys for what they are and return to business. “Come on, let’s eat.”
Then comes the healthy counter-offer; the true stroke of a Master. In an effort to break the stalemate, an appeal is made directly to the arbitrator.
“Mom, can I have yogurt instead?” This healthy alternative is made while smiling widely.
Later, as we’re cleaning up the kitchen, I pass a plate sitting next to the sink: four lonely fish sticks. About that time, the same child breezes in and says, “Can I have a snack?”
“No,” my wife and I say in unison.
“But, I’m hungry.”
“How about some yogurt?” I suggest.
Eyes roll hopelessly. “Dad, we just had that for dinner.”
Sorry, got to go. More later.