Rewards of Negotiating With a 2-Year-Old

By Joan Janzen

The man was asked, “So can you tell me what makes you qualified for the position of hostage negotiator?” The man replied “I have a 2 year old.” He was hired.

Julius Peterson is the son of Jordan Peterson, a professor and clinical psychologist. In a rare interview with his father, Julius said, “We practiced negotiating a lot as kids. It’s definitely one of the skills that’s vey useful in the relationships I have.”

During teaching sessions, Jordan has used his son as an example. He recalled his son at age two years and said, “My son was quite disagreeable by temperament. Telling him to stop doing something wouldn’t have any affect. He would just laugh or run away. He was a tough little rat.” It turns out, even psychologists sire children who have temper tantrums. As a clinical psychologist, studying the practice of normal and abnormal behaviour, the senior Peterson should be qualified to handle a 2-year-old. It may be that experience which inspired a chapter in one of his books entitled “Don’t let your children do anything that makes you dislike them”.

Jordan explained, “He’d do something, and when I’d interfere he’d get upset and angry,” he said. We’re all familiar with two-year-olds who have temper tantrums. “I’d tell him to sit on the step until he got control of himself, and then he could come back and be welcomed back into the family.”

Peterson said his son Julius would be enraged, kicking and screaming. “If you saw an adult do that you’d call 911 right away,” he joked. After a few minutes, Peterson reinforced the rule once again, that when the toddler calmed down he was welcome back, but it was his choice. After a few more minutes he’d ask his son if he had got himself under control yet, to which his son yelled back, “No! Not yet!” Eventually he calmed down.

“It’s actually not much fun to have a temper tantrum; it’s exhausting,” Jordan said. “He’d get himself under control and be contrite, and I’d invite him back right away, because no parent likes being dominated by a 2 year old. Discipline is partly what enables you to like your child while you love them.”

According to Jordan, a parent’s primary role when their child is aged 2 to 4 years, is to help them learn how to act in the world, so when people encounter them they smile and are happy to have them around. “I see kids who behave badly and everywhere they go people wear false smiles and are relieved when they leave. From a child’s perspective, everyone is lying and everyone hates them,” he explained. This results in a four year old, who has always gotten his or her own way, becoming cynical and arrogant. “But when children can interact with adults and children in a positive way, the whole world opens up for them,” he concluded.

“Lots of parents are very uneasy with disciplining their children partly because they believe if you give a child infinite freedom that’s best for them and constraints are inappropriate. That is so untrue that it’s very difficult to think of anything that’s more untrue,” Jordan emphasized.

His methods of discipline appeared to have worked in the life of his son. When Julius was ten years old, his sister became very ill. Jordan recalled to his adult son, “I said, look kiddo, we’re up to our necks here. You’re going to have to be sensible and realize we can’t give you a lot of attention right now, and you were.”

As for the negotiating skills of the now adult son, Julius said, “Basically one person has to give in a little in the beginning. Eventually the other person will meet you somewhere along the way, once the negativity or emotion goes out of the situation.”

His dad agreed, saying, “It means you’re willing to change as a consequence of this situation. You’re willing to do it so you can both make this better for both of you. That’s the point of a successful negotiation.”

Jordan complimented his son, saying, “You’ve organized your life in a consistent manner and simultaneously pursued your artistic pursuits.” It’s the freedom Julius enjoys because his father had taught his two-year-old how to be disciplined.




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