How I Stood My Ground (Eventually!) in the Face of My Daughter’s Negotiating

Posted March 20, 2009 by

Why is it so difficult to remember that as a parent, it is not my job to win popularity contests with my kids, especially when they want (or worse yet, feel entitled to) the latest gadget?

It doesn’t really matter what the identified object of desire is…I venture to say we have all lived some version of the following parental error.  See if you can relate…

The most recent object of my daughter’s desire (she is nine, what am I thinking?)  was an iPod Touch: the latest and greatest in songs, video, games and endless entertainment…and wireless for anyone (including me) if we happened to be in a wireless hotspot.

Always looking for an alternative to hosting too many kids for a birthday bash, I offered the party alternative of said electronic device recently in casual conversation.

“Hey Nicole, you can choose which you would rather have, an iPod Touch or a birthday party.” My line of reasoning? The cost was similar and the effort factor miles apart. I was correct in assuming she would choose the gadget to the gathering.

What I hadn’t counted on was her adept and persistent coaxing of said item far ahead of her actual birthday, which is not until May.  Guilt and gullibility were weaknesses she correctly identified and focused on in her bid to coax the item out of me sooner rather than later.

Several life events (including the sudden and unexpected death of my dad) have recently conspired to make me particularly vulnerable to taking the path of least resistance, which included walking into the Apple store and purchasing the IPod Touch for my daughter an entire two months prior to her birthday.

How does this happen?

“Mom, we’re right here…there isn’t an Apple store anywhere near where we live” ( a true statement; we live in the middle of nowhere…)

“Mom, you are so busy, this will keep me entertained” (but only after hours of loading the entertainment onto the device…)

“Mom, you are the best” (it is not our job to be our kid’s friends we must not abandon reason to flattery that is self serving…

And on and on…

And I fell for her persuasive arguments and gushing kindness hook, line and sinker.  Unfortunately they were short-lived, and buyer’s remorse set in. This was in large part due to her personality change from skillful and charming negotiator to an ungrateful and frustrated child. What had I done? How had I been bamboozled into this decision?

And more importantly, I thought, “Now what?”

I took the stand I should have and the one that would have been far more effective (and the one that falls into the recommended “do as I say and not as I do” category…) had I simply done the correct thing in the first place.

I took the electronic device back to the store, despite arguments, fits, and other red-headed strong-willed unsavory behavior and followed through with its return.

Yes, I had blown the initial opportunity for several lessons on how things work in the real world. Ugh. But I also realized that sometimes such decisions can also become opportunities to teach other lessons: Parents can and do make mistakes, but we still have the final say. We are still the parent, and the child the child, and we don’t always have to agree and they don’t always have to like our decision.

Remember, parenting isn’t a popularity contest. And isn’t always easy.  Can you relate?


Kathy has four children, aged 9, 12, 24 and 26. Her second son was seduced by marijuana when he was 16. Kathy is now a published author of "Winning the Drug War at Home". She is also a childbirth educator and is writing a pregnancy and childbirth book. Kathy graduated from Brown University with a degree in Health and Society, and also has a BSN in Nursing.

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  1. D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor Report

    Hi ‘Notadiva.’ I can understand why you feel caught in the middle. Trying to balance what your children want and what your partner wants can be difficult. James Lehman would tell you it isn’t necessary to over explain the reasons for your choices. This may be even more relevant advice when it’s adult children we’re talking about. I wouldn’t focus on trying to get them to understand the reasons for your choices. Instead, maybe you could offer them alternatives for spending time with you. For example, maybe you and your partner could have a separate celebration with them or perhaps you could take them out to dinner on your own. Keep in mind families do change over time. Things that may have worked or been appropriate at one time may not continue to work or be appropriate at a later time. It’s okay to make different choices as circumstances change. I hope this helps. Take care.

  2. Notadiva Report

    Hi. Please someone help me! I have been divorced/separated from my kids’ dad for 13 years now. While it was acrimonious in the beginning their dad and I made an effort to get together for their birthdays. This was fine and worked even with my then partner.

    Problem is now I have a lovely partner who I have now been with for four years and he isn’t as comfortable with the idea. He is happy to come to major events where mybkids dad will be – such as weddings etc, but would like to leave it there ……. reasonable, sure!

    My children are now 25, 27 and almost 30. I’ve tried to talk to my kids and even my ex husband abut this – BAD MOVE! They tell me I’m being selfish and weak, being controlled by my partner and that I’m acting like I’m someone when I’m around him. All because I don’t want to leave my partner and go spend the evening with my grown up children and my ex husband for their birthdays.

    I am really the meat in the sandwich here. What can I do to keep my otherwise great relationships with my kids while making them understand I also have a life with my lovely partner? HELP!!!!!

  3. k2cat Report

    I bought this packet for a friend and my daughter. These problems exist for all of us with children. Your ideas are good ones and I’ve watched them work in my life and in the lives of children where i worked in 3 divisions of child special needs from age 1 to 18. They actually respect those who are carefully showing them boundaries and teaching them that they are entitled to nothing but a home, food, water and parents who will take the time to explain their reasons for the decisions they make. Plan family time and play games with them. let them choose the game. Make time for them and talk to them like they are adults.

  4. AscexiaRicgax Report

    Hi Folks
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  5. abray272 Report

    This is in response to everyone but especially the momof3. I have a 17 year old son who is, in my opinion, out of control right now. I’m a single mom and he has always been a very good negotiator. In my mind, even when he wasn’t negotiating for something I was giving or doing something for him because I wanted to show him how much I loved him. Then he would misbehave and I would discipline him and the negotiations would begin. Now at 17 he has this sense of entitlement with everyone about everything and definitely doesn’t take responsibility for his own actions. He wants what he wants, when he wants it. He also feels that when he has done something wrong it is either someone elses fault, he doesn’t know why he did it or “I’m sorry” should be good enough to get him by. Consequences have never made any difference with him. He would put up an awful temper tantrum at the time of punishment, pout for a day or two but then he would always get over it and be right back to himself. Usually it would only be days after getting off punishment that he would do the same thing again. I only wish I was a tougher parent when he was younger and had been able to be more consistent with rules and rewards. I know we, as parents, can’t blame ourselves entirely for the problems our children have but I do feel responsible for that part of his personality. Toughen up for your child’s sake. Really! They may not like it now but they will respect you more for it when they are older. I really believe that. Good luck!

  6. MrWee and Boo Report

    I don’t have children of my own, but please believe me when I say I know children. I am an ex-elementary school teacher who has spent probably just as much (if not more) time with “your children” as you do 🙂 I’ve often wondered why some parents (and teachers alike) carry around this weight of “if i don’t give into my child (or student) i’m a mean parent (or teacher) and my child (student) won’t like me.” Well, let me just say this – children really do need, want, and respect adults setting limits and following through on what they say. If you tell your child they will have to face a certain consequence when they are disrespectful or don’t hold up any responsibilities which are set for them, then YOU don’t follow through – well, children (no matter what age) catch on pretty quickly. Kiddos know which parents (and teachers) mean business, and who the “push-overs” are. Sorry to be so blunt, but it is so true. Don’t get me wrong, being strict or following through doesn’t equate to being mean. You can be loving, nurturing, strict, and the disciplinary all at the same time.

  7. mom of 15 yr-old dtr Report

    Texting is an issue in our home as well. We didn’t allow our daughter to have texting until her 14th birthday,for which she claims she was teased over. But since then, texting has become one more issue for us to disagree over.
    She has the unlimited package but one month she did over 6,000 texts. So we took the phone away for several weeks and she promised to reduce her texting next time. We set limits in that her phone must be downstairs to charge at night by 9:30pm which prevents her from staying up at night to text. Then through a series of events, we learned that she was behaving inapropriately with a boyfriend and as someone else mentioned earlier in this blog, she felt more free to text messages that she might not have spoken aloud-at least not in our earshot.Again-she lost the phone for a time and when it returned it came with the understanding that we were to be able to view her text messages at will. It has improved since then but she still texts more than we wish. I have investigated parental con trols with Verizon and found that you can install a limit/cap on your child’s texting. It can be set to end once your child reaches 250 text messages within a given month. They will get a message and the service will be deactivated until the next month begin. I find all of the technical communication gadgets for children to be a double-edged sword. The internet offers great learning experiences but also great dangers. Our daughter is still not allowed to have a facebook-again for which she claims to be “the only one” of her friends without one. She does not have access to the internet without us logging her on and then she is monitored. I find it difficult at times to determine what is ok and what is harmful for her and to set limits.

  8. kehj Report

    This is in regards to the “texting” issue: I have a 14 year old who thinks she’s the only person in the world who doesn’t have texting. I’ve remained resolute on this issue. What happened to talking? Face to (gasp!)face or phone conversations? I regularly eMail my children’s teachers, and based on the messages I’ve received, (typos, etc.), I think texting by all age groups has ruined the English language – both written and spoken. My 80 year old mother the other day, in the midst of telling a story said “lol”. I just about died laughing. I tell my daughter she’s lucky to have a cell phone at all. I didn’t get one until I was 5 months pregnant (with her) and had to drive a long distance to my OBGYN. Bottom line, you’re the parent and you have the final say. Hold firm and trust your decision(s).

  9. firemeyerswife Report


    Hooray for you! I do not think you gave a mixed message. You just realized that you made a mistake. I have done the same thing. Except for one year when I got my 8 year old daughter what she wanted 2 months in advance, and then got bamboozled into a party too!!! Oh, the shame of it all!!! I have since learned my lesson.
    It is a constant struggle. I had an awful role model as a mother, so I am learning it all on the fly. When I make a mistake (or my husband does) we talk about it and discuss how to handle it the next time. No shame in making mistakes. No one is perfect. And parenting is so difficult sometimes. I think you did great!!!

  10. pay4performance Report

    Our 12 year old daughter is the Clarence Darrow of negotiating–see has incredible potential to argue before the bench. She starts with, “If you do X for me, I’ll do Y for you.” I told her that some of the people I supervise, also offer to improve their performance or take on more responsiblity if I increase their pay. Then I add that just like her if they fail ro deliver I have to take the reward away and (just like her) that leaves them bitter and frustrated.
    We usually conclude with “Dad’s job is to teach you how to get along in the world. And, the world expects you to deliver on your commitment to earn the reward–not the other way around.”
    Sometimes she gets it, sometimes she stomps off in a huff, sometimes she drops it and moves on to finishing her homework… it varies.
    P.S. No texting.

  11. kcmom Report

    Yes I can relate. I just took my 12 year old daughters cell phone because of late night texting. She has been away from it going on the 3rd day and I already see a change for the better. I told her I didn’t know when she will get it back. She seems calmer and less distracted.

  12. awstevens Report

    I can relate to this…on the childs side. 🙂 I am a sophomore in college and just celebrated my 20th birthday. I am a full-time student and still rely on my parents for support. I have been wanting a Wii since they came out, I asked for one for christmas but I did not get it because I was going to take a summer course in Turkey for 2 weeks so “Santa” gave me the trip to Turkey. The beginning of March I found out I was not going to be able to go to Turkey sooo I reasoned with my mom that I should get a Wii with the refunded deposit from my christmas present since technically I would not have a christmas present anymore. Well it did nto take much work at all for her to agree. I assumed that it would also count as my birthday present also (my birthday was the end of March) but I got a card from my family in the mail with quite a substantial amount of money in it for my birthday.

    This just happens to be the most recent account of me persuading my parents. It is a very frequent thing for me. I always say it is because they love me so much….but I know it is because I am extremely lucky/spoiled. I try to remember to be very thankful and grateful for everything they do for me. I know that I am now, but I am sure as a child I acting very much like a “spoiled brat.”

  13. kathy pride Report

    I had some thoughts I shared and then my internet went off and it was all lost. OK, I need to write on WORD first and then post…so this doesn’t happen.

    I can’t bear to write it all over again, so here is the nutshell version.

    Sorcia, Thanks for your observations. Yes, I guess I do send a mixed message, one that is confusing at times, and it is something I am working on.

    Momof3, hang in there and since it is always easier for me to observe and suggest in others rather than myself, let me say hold strong, hold firm, love unconditionally and remember you are the parent. She may need to live on her own for a bit; we asked our oldest son to do so when he was griping at the age of 20 and feeling rather entitled…

  14. momof3 Report

    I should also add in the above comment of mine that we have had the disrespectful, obnoxious behavior with this child for about 2 years—the first year was the worst –there has been improvement. Last year she was making bad choices for herself—so that made us set up limits on her which she didn’t like. We told her until we see maturity and responsibility from her we will continue to put down limits. She is totally mad at us for no texting on her phone—she is also really mad at us for only allowing the 1/2 phone call at night with the boyfriend and the 1 time per week visit with him. She is constantly pressing for MORE time with him. We feel she needs to find herself before revolving her life around a boy. But of course she don’t see it that way. ugh—-I guess you always have to have atleast ONE challenging child—-it sure makes a person question what they are doing when you have a child like this constantly telling you how unfair you are being and way to strict you are. She thinks her lifes problems will all be solved once she is 18 and moves out!!! Hard as I try to let her know that unless she makes some personal changes her life will not be that much better. Sure you make your own rules then—-but there is way more to moving out on your own that just making your own rules. Can’t seem to get that into her head. She seems like a dreamer thinker to me—-just is SURE things will just work out. How did we get here!! My other 2 seemed more centered than her……… this time anyway. Maybe it is cuz they have watched her make her mistakes for the last 2 years—who knows. Ok–Bye.

  15. momof3 Report

    Hi I have another question here—Kathy talked about how when her daughter wanted something she was all nicey nicey, then she got it and the naughty attitude and stuff returned. what I am wondering is how do other people handle that Being nice when they want something and then being not so nice at other times? I have a daughter that just crosses the line in how she talks to me and treats me—despite ignoring much of it–she still will just not treat me the way that children should treat their parent. Especially when I am the one that she knows she can count on and lean on. I am just always there for her and she knows this. But it seems like she can say something to me that I feel is just not appropriate (no swearing mind you) and then not long after that she is asking for something? Something I could do for her or get her so on and so forth. HOW do you handle this junk? The other morning before school she was asking if we were going prom dress shopping this weekend? I said Well dear—if your attitude doesn’t improve we aren’t going prom dress shopping. It straightens up for a bit –but then it seems as though she forgets!! I have 3 children and if i am chatting with one of them about maybe how they mistreated another one—she will but in where she is not involved and add in her 2 cents—at that point I just tell her that at this time this doesn’t have anything to do with her so I would appreciate her just staying out of it. Then she mouths off something else—which normally I will ignore—unless it is way disrespectful. My 2 older kids (17 & 16) believe I over protect my 12 year old. However what happens at times is they will kind of gang up on the younger one with saying things that are just not nice. So I will chat with them about this —all 3 of them. I also advise my younger one how to just let this go and not have to comment back to them–just to remove himself from where they are at. It is SO hard to do for adults let alone children. How should I be handling these situations? I appreciate your responses. Thank You.

  16. ilene Report

    Hi all,
    Texting….no way! Face to face! We did not have it as children and our children do not need it. School’s don’t allow it and nothing is ruder when you are trying to have a conversation with someone who is texting. My daughter will be getting her driving permit soon and I have seen kids who can text better than drive and they do it while driving. Ughh. New technology is making people stupider in many ways and certainly less social.
    I think my daughter’s friends are so rude when they are sitting in the back of my car talking to me and texting there friends. I have also found that it is not always who they claim to be. I am also oposed to FaceBook and online e-mailing and such. Have not seen it used for teenagers where is has not yet caused a problem. Even issues with my 11 year old’s friends.
    Good luck if you are one of those who beleive in it.

  17. sorcia Report

    I have similar battles with my daughter who is 8, but it’s about watching tv/movies. Since I’m not prepared to endure every-day meltdowns over cartoons or movie time, I ask for something (homework, spelling practice, etc.) beforehand. I also spell out rules beforehand (for example, tv goes off after the second cartoon), etc. If she can’t stick to these rules she herself has helped create by whining and tantruming, I remove the privilege entirely for the week or even month saying that movies/tv make her too upset.

    What I see Kathy doing is taking the i-pod back, but I don’t know why. I think it sends the child the message “I am an indecisive parent and don’t know if my decisions are right.” This opens up the opportunity for the child to act out, demand more, whine and complain to get something new. I think letting the child keep the i-pod, not giving any attention to her frustration and ungratefulness, not giving her a birthday party or second present would have done the trick. This teaches a child to choose wisely and that sometimes the choices she makes might not be satisfactory (that’s life) and what the consequence for immediate gratification is (emptiness later on). If frustration and whining despite the i-pod continue, I would take it away and say, “You can have it back when you feel less frustrated. Let me know when that is.”

  18. Carol Report

    I also removed the texting feature from my daughter’s phone after I discovered that they will ‘text’ what they would never say, face to face. I found texts full of curse words – something I’ve only very rarely heard escape the lips of my daughter – but she seemed more brave to text it. Somehow, I guess if you’re not actually saying it, it doesn’t seem so bad to them. What I discovered after I talked with her at length is that the type of language I was seeing in the texts is “expected” – the incoming texts were much worse, actually. Well, I ended that real quick. Until she is capable of paying for her own cell phone in her name, there will be no more texting. She missed it for a few months, but hardly mentions it now. She is content to do the old fashioned thing – talk.

  19. kathy pride Report

    Texting. Ah, yes, the brave new electronic world…We did get our daughter a cell phone for Christmas. She is twelve. She pays for the unlimited texting herself, and has rules. I appreciate that texting is a privelege and one that can be taken away; I don’t care who is paying for it. There are rules, and if they are broken the phone goes. The phone has a bedtime and also is off limits during family meals and other family times. So far this has not been a problem with her.

    It seems that her entire middle school crowd is cell phone texting crazy. I fought the idea of a cell phone and texting for a long time. I didn’t realize what a big deal peer thing it was for her until one friend braodcast all over Middle School that Tianna wasn’t going to get a cell phone until she was 16 and because of that she was ostracicized. I remember how painful Middle School was and how much of an outcast I felt, so that was when I changed my mind and my husband and I discussed it and agreed that we would add her line as an additional line on our family plan, she needed to use it to stay in touch with us, but as far as the texting went, she needed to pay, but that it appeared to be important as part of her social mileiu. I hope it isn’t that way forever, because I agree that face to face communication is a skill that is fast becoming an obsolete art.
    Rules are fine. Parents just need strength to enforce them. May we all be part of a supportive community to each other.

  20. kathy pride Report

    Greetings, all!

    Thanks for joining the conversation! I am currently away with my mom, Nicole and a friend taking care of some business related to my dad’s death and someohow got sucked back into drama related to almost an identical scenario to the IPOD touch, just different gadget, different location. This time it was a camera.

    We are somehwere truly beautiful and magnificent and my camera died. Dead. Gone. So I found an electronics store that was reasonable (no WalMart where we are) and agreed to buy the camera and when I ultimately replaced mine, it could be hers. She could use it now, but then again, so was I. Somehow withing two hours of making the purchase this message got lost. I took it away, and the loud and raucous behavior that followed was embarassing, especially considering we were at an old old church perched on a mountainside and staffed by monks. I think she finally realized her behavior was a problem when the monk appeared and just looked at her without saying a word. Can I sign up for one of these silent retreats? I re-possessed the camera and we had a long talk where we both could express our feelings and thoughts and arrive at open communication and understanding.

    I will comment in the next comment about texting.

  21. Kat Report

    We don’t have texting enabled on our phones either. Somehow it doesn’t seem to be that important to my 14 year old anymore. I want them to talk to people, I really feel that engaging people face to face is becoming a lost art. Texting is everywhere, my friends have it, they say it helps them connect with their teens better.

  22. momof3 Report

    Hi has anyone withheld texting from their children? How is that going in your home? It used to be a daily battle about WHY can’t I have it? I tell mine cuz I as a parent can not stand it when kids sit around constantly checking their phones—or constantly texting. We live on a farm and there are better things to do with your time. I said you don’t need to know the where abouts or doings of everyone you know!! Is anyone else taking on this battle? Not sure if it is a battle we should be taking on or not? We did allow texting in the Fall when school started and one of our children totally abused the guidelines we had set up with that. So it is now gone for her. She can’t even receive texting as she also fights us on limits we have set up with being in contact with her new boyfriend. I just don’t feel that kids need to have that CONSTANT involvement all throught out the day and night with texting. I tell my kids if you have something to say call and use your mouth. We give our daughter a 1/2 call at night with her boy friend and they get to get together 1 time per week either at his house or ours to watch tv or movies. She is always fighting for MORE time. I think that should be based on a per child basis—and at this time we will just say she does have that nicey thing going on when she wants something and then when she is told no we have quite a different child on our hands. She is getting better—we have been working on the disrespect and other things for the past 2 years and there has been improvement shown. Sometimes we feel we are having to put down too many limits—but I think that questioning comes from our daughters telling us that!! 🙂

  23. robin Report

    I’ve been walking the same road with my 8 year old daughter. She had to buy the phone with her own $$$ and she agreed–but now that the novelty has worn thin–I’ve noticed how angry she is at me–for “letting her” be so foolish. So while I negotiated a compromise–nothing replaces the hard road of parenting and standing strong in our own beliefs ( the hard part is our own vulnerability and how we work through those moments).

  24. gpcruise Report

    Hey, I have a neice who ‘only had to ask her Mommy 83 times’ to get what she wanted! I Relayed this story to my girl and I maintain ‘no’ past twice that many times of asking…to infinity and beyond!! I find it helpful to be occupying myself with something and I do not even think about said items, or requests, when saying no, I know I am getting through when the manipulations are further and fewer between.

  25. Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor Report

    Kathy, This post is a great reminder about how things can get out of hand. My son is a great negotiator as well, and I have definitely found myself doing things for him without even knowing that I was being bamboozled! Good for you for standing your ground with your daughter — it gives me hope. 🙂

  26. dawnmcav65 Report

    I can relate.

    I fall into this trap all the time with my 16 yr old daughter, “If you get me this…, I will do this…” Well, she rarely ever follows through fully with her promise, but will she have a rude awakening when I finally tell her no more. If she wants something from me from now on, she will have to earn it before hand. I’m hoping that I will be able to withhold the instant gratification from my children and make them earn what they want by being good, doing their homework and good in school and doing what they need to do around the house.

    Thank you so much, for putting this in print.



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