Everything is a negotiation, especially with kids. Comedian Jim Gaffigan jokes that his youngest daughter acts as the ring leader for his other four kids and turns bedtime into a hostage negotiation. Reluctantly, Gaffigan caves and gives in to their demands as long as they go to sleep. It’s humorous and true. Negotiating with children is part of fatherhood. And sometimes, we have to negotiate with our kids to regain some of our sleep.
Mirroring is about collecting information by repeating back one to three words your child says—and doing it in the form of a question. It particularly works well in confrontational conversations because it puts kids at ease and makes them feel heard. Your son asks, “Can I go to Jimmy’s party?” You say, “Jimmy’s party?” He responds, “Yeah, Jimmy’s throwing a party at the beach next weekend.” You say, “At the beach?” He says, “Jimmy’s grandparents have a beach house they are lending him to celebrate his graduation.” You say, “Graduation?” You’ve found out Jimmy is a senior while your son is still a sophomore. Now you know having your son attend the party is not a good idea, but you need to get him to conclude that on his own. So when negotiating with children, you have to mirror them because mirroring requires your children to listen to their own rationale. Having to explain what they want in detail allows you to pick the right follow-up questions that get them to think critically about a decision. Mirroring helps you get your children talking and ultimately thinking about what they really want.