The other day I sat down to make a reward chart for my daughter. This entailed outlining daily goals and tasks for her to complete and creating a corresponding sidebar explaining exactly how many check marks would earn which treats. Before I showed her the finished project, I considered having a team of lawyers vet it.
Kidding, but also not kidding. My 9-year-old, Mia, is a shrewd negotiator. She hears “No” as an opening bid. This trait has been maddening, for all the obvious reasons, but especially because I’m not a natural deal closer. Thinking fast and clearly in the moment is not my strong suit. I tend to have a perfect response 30 minutes after a heated conversation, while Mia’s mind moves quickly. And she’s very crafty too.
My daughter argues with me over everything from snacks to screen time to socks and shoes, and in response, I’ve been forced to adapt and improve the way that I present my side of any argument beyond the lame “Because I said so.”
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Looking back, I’ve realized that the debate practice has been valuable. The effects have bled into the rest of my life—especially when it comes to my own ability to advocate for myself. One recent example: I was helping plan a party for a friend and somehow ended up doing nearly everything, and shouldering much of the cost too. But instead of simmering with resentment, I drafted a message to the group thread, divvied up the remaining responsibilities, and then added my Venmo handle so people could chip in.
So come at me, world. I’ve been trained by the master.
This article originally appeared in Parents Magazine's October 2019 issue as "Say What You Need."