The Power of Compromise, the Development of Negotiation

I mentioned in my introduction that it is L’s younger brother H and how he has developed which has really highlighted L’s differences in his development.

As a 4 year old, H is now developing skills of negotiation. He will use emotional blackmail, reasoning and compromise to get what he wants. Don’t get me wrong, he is still a stubborn little bugger, but he demonstrates an understanding of manipulating my wife and I into giving him what he wants in a way L never has. For example, he doesn’t like fruit. He won’t eat fruit and despite bribery, threats and coercion, insists he will never eat fruit.

Me: “H, just eat a bit of apple and you can have some sweets”
H: “I don’t like fruit Dad and I will never eat fruit. Even an apple”.
Me: “but if you want some sweets then you need to eat some apple, just a bite”
H: “Can I have some sweets if I lick an apple?”
Me (laughing): “No, but if you just have a nibble then you can have one sweet”
H: “Can I have one sweet if I lick an apple?”
Me (cringing now): “No. You need to take a bite and swallow it, it’s nice, you’ll like it”
H: “No, I will never eat fruit. I don’t want sweets anyway”
H wanders off, victorious.

He has now gone 3 weeks without sweets, and of course, without touching any fruit.

Now, the same conversation with L (who actually loves fruit and all sorts of new foods, but as an example I will pretend he doesn’t as an illustrative tool):

Me: “L, will you try this apple”
L: “I don’t like fruit so no.”
Me: “You can’t have any sweets until you try some apple”
Me: “Try some apple first and you can”

L storms out of the room, sits in a corner and cries, shouting various things until he calms down and potters back in to watch tv.

What I am trying to illustrate here is how H will negotiate, will try and find a way he can get what he wants, will try different approaches and weasel his way in. He is starting to use emotional blackmail now, being super sweet and nice or being grumpy and having what I would call ‘strategic tantrums’. Not out of control screaming fits but having a tantrum which, if I were to offer him some sweets, would stop instantly and be replaced by a beaming smile.

L instead cannot see that there might be a way to get what he wants, instead he either can have it or he can’t, and if he can’t then it is disastrous and he reacts as such.

It has taken a long time to realise that H’s behaviour is what one might call ‘normal’, though as you will note I do try and find alternative ways of saying that throughout these entries, for what is ‘normal’ anyway? Well in this case, normal is the development of a set of social skills which you learn through life in order to manipulate and control people to get what you want. These are life skills which become more subtle and sub-conscious as we develop, but are there nevertheless. I sometimes wonder how L will deal with these situations in the future and what my wife and I can do to help him with this.

My approach today will be to try and teach L that negotiation and reaching agreement is important to get something rather than win or lose everything. He has a very good brain, can talk and understand things very well, so I am hoping tat by taking a logical approach to a very illogical subject such as human behaviour, then at least he can understand what is happening and how to respond accordingly. I doubt this will ever become sub-conscious as it does to most of us, but perhaps with his intelligence, we stand a chance of helping him control this.

I will report back in a future entry.

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