Apple Montessori Blog

Balancing Act: Negotiating with Your Child


One of the tenets of Apple Montessori Schools’ approach to child development and education is to encourage children to be independent and express themselves, while at the same time be respectful of you and others.

As children grow, it can become a balancing act of wills for parents whose children start to negotiate about household rules or instructions you have provided.

On one hand, children need orderliness, structure and discipline, and to realize that you mean what you say. If hands need to be washed before sitting down to dinner, there’s no discussion about it. That’s the rule of the house and it must be followed by everyone in the family, including your child.

On the other hand, there are times when it can be appropriate to negotiate with your child if the outcome serves both you and your child, creating a win-win situation for all.

For instance, if you ask your daughter to put on her blue dress to go to a party and she says she would rather wear the pink one, you may want to let her wear the pink one. She’ll be happy about selecting the dress she wants, and you’ll be happy to get out the door in time for the party.

Providing Choices

Since most people don’t like being told what to do, including children, providing simple choices can help accomplish a task while building your child’s independence and decision-making skills. For example, if your child is a finicky eater at breakfast time, provide easy options for healthy items you know they like: “Do you want cereal and fruit, or eggs and toast.” If they don’t want either, gently let them know there are no other options and they have to make a choice.

Staying Calm

A friend of mine has two very smart children who started to negotiate with her about the amount of time they could watch television after dinner. Rather than be impatient with them, she humorously said, “If this were a TV court show, you both could be very good lawyers by the way you present your cases, however, I am Judge Mommy, and we’re all going to follow the rules of the house until you have your own TV show.”

Sometimes you just have to say “no” without compromise and set boundaries. While it is important for your child to feel that you listen and understand their point of view, it’s just as critical to provide structure and discipline for a harmonious home environment.

Nurturing Environment

At Apple Montessori Schools, we believe in providing an environment that fosters independence and self-expression. However, equally as important, we support respectful behavior towards parents, teachers, and others. In our multi-age classroom, children learn to observe appropriate classroom behavior and participate in purposeful activities of their choice, while respecting the needs of others.