You. Are Not. The Boss.
Dear Three Year Old,
I know your life is extremely difficult right now. You're struggling with only having one Ninja Turtle action figure, when you really want all four. And Shredder. And Splinter. And every other Ninja Turtle related toy you see on that stupid catalog that came with your $9 toy. You have a nap time and a bed time; that must be rough. You have to be reminded to flush the toilet and you still can't wipe your own butt. I can't imagine the struggle. But we need to have a talk. So listen up.
When you were just a little tyke, starting to form words and sentences and understanding more complex concepts, your dad and I discovered the beauty of negotiation. We found we could avoid you having a major meltdown of confusion and frustration if we offered you options and met in the middle. Win-Win situations for everybody. You give a little, we give a little, and everyone was happy. For a while, it worked. We maintained our roles as superior humans and you were content thinking that you'd achieved what you wanted without a fight. My dear three year old, we made a grave mistake. We should've never taught you to negotiate. We apologize. Profusely.
Because now that you're three (closer to four! what.), you're beginning to perfect the art of manipulation and lying. You've learned to make excuses and to negotiate in way that is tricky, deceitful, and appears to be paving the way to a successful career in law. Our parenting has backfired on us. You seem to think you can negotiate your way out of anything. I tell you to pick up your toys and you say, "I'll play for one more minute and then I'll pick them up." When that minute goes by and you are reminded again to pick up your toys, you'll put up your hands and say, "Mom. Calm down. I'll play for seven more minutes and that's it." And so the cycle continues into every avenue of life.
"No, you cannot have a cookie." "I'll eat 2 carrots and one sandwich and then I can have a cookie." "Um. No. That's not how this works." "Ok. 1 carrot and 4 sandwiches and I can have 2 cookies."
"Time for a bath!" "I'm just going to bed and I'll take a bath in the morning." "No. You're gonna take a bath now." "I can watch ONE show and then I'll take a bath."
I'm starting to wonder when the moment was that your dad and I began to lose our authority over your life. When did you get it into your tiny little brain that you are the boss? My dear sweet child, you are not the boss. You never will be. I run this roost, son, so step out the way. I really hate to break this news to you, but your daddy and I ... we're done negotiating. It's going to be difficult for everyone. I hate tantrums and emotional bursts of anger and frustration, but you're going to have to learn to deal with those emotions and I'm going to have to learn to love you through them. And I do love you, kid. I really, really, do. And it's because of that love for you that I have to do this. You don't get to negotiate a deal in every situation that you find displeasurable. I don't want you to bribe you to follow rules and to be kind and helpful and cooperative. These are things you are going to have to learn, whether you like it or not. You're going to have to learn to clean your toys up without the promise of a reward. You're going to have to learn to eat your food because you need to not die, not because you really want to get that cookie that's sitting on the counter. So, kid. Here we go.
Negotiations have been thrown out of the courtroom. Let's throw down.
Love you always sweet boy, The Boss.