Remember "never negotiate with terrorists or toddlers"!!
I thought I was pretty good at negotiation.
I've had a successful business career. That involved negotiating with people. I have been very active in politics, a borough councillor, a parliamentary candidate, a candidate for police commissioner. All of those roles involved negotiation. Lots of it.
Nothing prepares you for negotiating with a toddler though. Oh No.
Now, I think I have negotiated with some pretty unreasonable people over time.
Much of my corporate life was spent working in the relocation industry. We moved the staff of other businesses around the world.
That involved loads of negotiation.
Like the call I received late one August Friday afternoon. A US relocation agent was on the phone. Could we possibly arrange for her clients to be shown around the schools nearest to where they hoped to live in SW London. Tomorrow (Saturday) morning. Starting at 8am.
I always made it a rule never to sound negative. But getting access to schools, at 7pm on a Friday. In August? That was an impossibility and, as nicely as possible, I told the lady so.
"I'm sure you'll be able to manage it," she said breezily.
After some to-ing and fro-ing we settled on perhaps being able to show the clients around the outside of the schools in question.
"Oh! You're a star. Keep shining!" Said my colonial colleague, ringing off.
I wasn't sure whether to barf or cry.
There was also the time, some years go, when we moved a group of Kazakhs to Surrey.
Called one Sunday afternoon by their panicked interpreter, I was asked if I could get over to the most senior Kazakhs house where there was 'some trouble.'
When I arrived, the 'trouble' was obvious. The police had been called and something of a row was ensuing.
The most senior of the group had been moved to a property befitting his status. A faux Georgian house in a small gated estate of similar properties, each with its own manicured lawn to the front.
Also befitting his status he had arranged a party for his compatriots to mark their all arriving safely in the UK. Kazakh parties apparently involve a barbecue. Generally the meat to be barbecued is goat or mutton. As fresh as possible. Over a freshly dug barbecue pit. Accompanied by copious amounts of vodka.
The barbecue pit duly dug in the middle of the front lawn of the house in the immaculate suburban enclave. The job helped along by the vodka.
Then the goat had arrived. Goodness knows where the Kazakhs got it. But they did.
Freshly slaughtered, aided by more vodka, they began to barbecue it. In front of the neighbours. Helped by even more vodka. That's when the neighbours called the police.
Negotiating with very drunk Kazakhs, disappointed at being unable to finish their front lawn goat barbecue. That was fun.
As you can, I hope, see from these stories. I've become used to negotiating in different situations. Some of them time pressured. Some of them stressful and angry.
None of them provided me with any preparation for dealing with our children. Part of the problem is a complete failure on my part to recognise the hidden agenda.
Usually because the hidden agenda is so obscure as to be incomprehensible to the 40 something brain.
A simple example is this morning.
First of all our three year old daughter wouldn't drink her banana milk.
"It's cold," she grumped, crossing her arms and sticking out her bottom lip. Always a bad sign.
"That's because it's been in the fridge," I replied.
"Want it warm!" I was told quite firmly by our little girl.
After a 30 second stand off over use of the word 'please' in that sentence, I pretended to warm it up in the microwave. Switching the oven on for 10 seconds while shielding the glass placed in front of it from my daughter's view.
I placed the still fridge temperature banana milk in front of her. She downed it in one.
We then had to get dressed.
Or, rather, she had to get dressed.
What to wear, what to wear?
Our daughter started off by rejecting every form of clothing. Dress? No! Trousers? NO! Shorts? NO! NO! NO!
A preferred colour theme for the day perhaps? Don't like any of them!
Distraction. Limiting choice to two items. Bribery. Cajoling. Pleading. Crying. Nothing worked. I even tried sensible reason. "Please, please just choose something. We need to get going? It will help Daddy so much if you would choose what you'd like to wear quickly."
Oh, how we laughed at the thought of the reasonable approach working!
Leaving her to get showered myself I returned to find her beautifully turned out in jeans, matching t-shirt and jumper.
I could have cried.
So, time to brush her hair. "Can I brush your hair please?"
"No!" We were back to cooperative three year old.
"Why?" I asked reasonably
"Don't like that brush!" our little girl said firmly.
What was wrong with it? Did it pull? Had it hurt her previously? Were the prongs too close together? Was she unhappy with the style it produced?
All of these quite reasonable options were rejected.
Why then. Why not this particular brush?
"You should know!" Our daughter said, staring accusingly.
"I have NO IDEA!" I answered. If I had hair I would have been pulling it out at this stage.
"It's the wrong colour!" She said.
"The wrong colour?" I replied, even more confused and frustrated.
"It's pink. I want to use the yellow brush. Had banana milk for breakfast, so we use the yellow brush. Use the pink brush when I have strawberry milk!" Our little girl explained.
I never felt like crying at the end of negotiations in the past. Now it's an almost daily occurrence.