Over the last couple of months, I have been taking a doctoral course on negotiation and conflict. On my daughter’s 7 year birthday I got a chance to test my new skills.
I was at her school and we were having lunch together on her birthday and I asked her, “What are you looking forward to about being 7?” She answered, “Staying up late with the big kids (her older siblings).” She gets way tired and I knew this was a bit unrealistic.
I decided to test my new learnings out and try some “integrative bargaining.” I asked her, “What time do you think you should go to bed?” (Her bedtime was 6:30 pm). She answered, “7 o’clock!” This was her opening position. But then she added, “But Mom won’t let me, but I’m 7 and it makes sense that I should to bed at 7!” I liked the argument from even numbers.
I asked her then what was important to her about staying up until 7 pm (finding out what her interests are). She shared, “Having fun, playing with the Kids, playing with Oreo (the dog), and not missing out.” Using Daniel Shapiro’s core need categories from Beyond Reason, she expressed a desire for affiliation (with her siblings) and status (staying up later so she is no longer going to bed like a “6-year-old.”
I asked her to think about why her Mom might not want her to go to bed at 7 pm. As we talked, the thing that came up was that she sometimes is grumpy when she goes to school after not getting enough sleep (Her mom’s interests). I asked her if that was true and she admitted it was. I asked her, “Do you like being grumpy and tired at school?” She answered, “No.”
I then attempted a “joint problem statement” along the lines of “What would a good bedtime be that allows you to stay up later like a 7-year-old and that also would allow you to get enough sleep so that you can have a good day at school given that you have to wake up at 5:15 am?”
She thought for a second and then answered, “I think maybe I should go to bed 10 minutes later.” I asked her if she thought her mom would be ok with that. She said she wasn’t sure, but asked, “Will you talk to her?” I asked if she was ok with having her bedtime be at 6:40 pm and she gave an enthusiastic, “Yes!”
When we were home later she looked at me and gave me the wink wink nod nod to go talk to her mother to see if this was an agreeable plan. We discussed it together and came to a quick agreement that as a 7-year-old, KK would now go to bed at 6:40 pm instead of 6:30 pm.
KK drives a hard bargain 🙂
Sounds like a lot of work for 10 minutes, but it actually was pretty fun because you could see her enjoying the conversation, being taken seriously, and being a part of shaping the solution.
Negotiation is pretty fascinating – there’s a lot of principles relevant to high-level business or conflict that are just as applicable to something as benign as figuring out a 7 year old’s bed time 🙂