Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Fine Art of Bargaining With A Three-Year-Old

My husband and I don’t usually fight with our daughter about what clothes she wears. She wants to wear a brown and orange flowered dress with florescent yellow, green and pink striped leggings? Sure, go for it (yes, that was a recent outfit). Part of this is that my husband, as a stay-at-home dad, is responsible for getting her dressed in the morning. He’s colorblind, so it makes fighting a daily battle over ensembles truly pointless, since there’s no guarantee that his choice will work any better than hers. He does the laundry too, so outfits don’t tend to stay together. Hence the decision that clothing choice is a pretty reasonable area for her to start having some control. We do reserve a veto for hygiene and weather appropriateness but otherwise we let her pick out what she’s going to wear that day. Except yesterday was school picture day.

I’m a sucker for school pictures. I always end up buying them to send to grandparents and to tuck in cards and for my own wallet. So I really wanted her to wear matching clothes yesterday, something to compliment her basic adorableness. I discussed this with her and she picked out a nice tunic with purple and black and white flowers. I told her she needed leggings and she let me pick out the black ones for her. So far, so good. Unfortunately, then she decided to add the dark blue skirt with red and yellow flowers over the leggings under the tunic. Arrgh! Now I feel stuck, because we have told her that she’s allowed to pick her clothes. I don’t want to take that back when really, she’s mostly doing a good job. Plus I am trying to get ready for work myself and am not eager to inspire a tantrum. But I really, really don’t want her to wear that skirt.

“Sweetie, can you take the skirt off?” I say.

“No!” says my daughter.

“Please? I want you to look pretty in the pictures at school.” I say.

“I think the skirt is pretty! It’s very pretty!” she says back.

Having an articulate child is not always a blessing. It’s hard to argue with taste I guess, but I still don’t want her to wear that skirt. I want the pictures to look good to MY taste. So I decide to offer a deal.

“Please?” I say. “I’ll let you pick out my clothes this morning.”

“Okay!” she says.

I know this sounds risky, but I don’t have that many different work clothes so I didn’t think she could go too far wrong. Tan, brown, blue and black pants pretty much go with anything, after all. Plus I know she loves picking out my clothes; when I get home from work she often asks if she can pick a T-shirt for me or pick a pair of jeans out of my drawer. I think that might be because I usually let her borrow one of my shirts to play in at the same time. Or maybe she just enjoys the chance to be the one in charge sometimes.  

My strategy worked like a charm. She went to school in her tunic and leggings sans clashing skirt. I went to work in black pants and a pink sweater instead of tan pants and a black sweater. Both of us were happy and looking good. That’s what I call a win-win situation!