The Art Of The Deal

Dante has been polishing his negotiation skills lately as he tries to figure out just what the boundaries are.

The first traces of this behavior surfaced a few months ago, in relationship to the “3 little balls” rule. See, we have a little stash of Jelly Belly jellybeans, which he calls “little balls.” Occasionally he’s allowed to have a few (usually 3) for dessert after a meal. However, when he’s had some other sugary stuff already that day, we turn down the request, which would result in exchanges like this:

DANTE: You want three little balls.
PAUL: No honey, you already had a popsicle. That was your dessert.
DANTE: [A long pause, and then…] You want ten little balls.

As you can see, in the initial stages he hadn’t grasped the key concept of starting high and negotiating down. His attempts to do it the other way were spectacular and hilarious failures. Now he’s got it down, as evidenced by his attempts to stretch out the bedtime ritual yesterday.

LAURA: Do you want me to sing you three lullabies?
DANTE: Dante wants fifty lullabies.
LAURA: OK, no, that’s not going to happen, how about five?
DANTE: Want twenty lullabies.
LAURA: We can do ten lullabies, and that’s all.
DANTE: [A long pause, and then…] Eleven.
LAURA: [Sighing] Okay, eleven.

The tactics aren’t just restricted to numerical haggling, though. There’s also the time-honored “You want three more minutes”, “You want one more page”, “You want more ice cream”, etc. Better than this, though, are attempts to avoid waiting via reality manipulation:

DANTE: Want to paint with finger paints!
LAURA: Okay, give me about ten minutes, and then we can do that.
DANTE: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10! [Looks at her expectantly.]

Or, even better:

DANTE: You want to go to Grandma’s house.
PAUL: Well, we’re going to go there in three days.
DANTE: It’s three days.

Doesn’t hurt to try, right? The best one I’ve seen so far was when we were coming back from an errand. As occasionally happens when we drive somewhere, Dante decided that he wanted to be the one to unlock the car door (yeah, no keyless entry for me.) So he put the key in and turned it, but this time when I opened the door, he climbed right into the driver’s seat, and we had this dialogue:

PAUL: Oh, are you going to drive now?
DANTE: [Excited] DANTE is going to drive!
PAUL: Nope, sorry, you’ve got about fourteen years before you can do that.
DANTE: [Looking at me with his best “Jedi mind tricks” gaze] It’s fourteen years.

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