Take Charge Using a Key Negotiating Tip From a 9-Year-Old

My son mountain climbing and hiking in Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas. Taking charge and moving out.

You are an experienced attorney and you scoff at the idea that you could learn anything from a nine-year-old. You are skeptical. Yet, you have read the title and the first line of this post. That’s a good start.

There many lawyers who are afraid to take the bull by the horns for fear of change and fear of the unexpected. They are not willing to invest in themselves in order to improve their marketing, their lives and their overall success.

This tip should give you an insight into one-way to improve those things.

Yesterday, my nine-year-old approached me and said that he needed money in order to buy a MacBook laptop. He has been saving up for quite a while. He needs another $200 and figured that he would get matching funds from grandma if he took the bull by the horns and did something useful and productive.

Standing in our living room, he made a very effective argument. “Listen Dad, I will clean up the living room, the hallway, and the dining room. I will organize all the shoes, put away all the jackets, pick up the garbage, rearrange the pillows and even wash your car. All I ask in return is that you pay me $15.

As you can tell, my son is not one who needs to wait to be told to do something, he often takes the bull by the horns, recognizes what he wants and immediately enters into negotiations to achieve his objective.

I pointed out that many of those things he was trying to do, he should be doing anyway on a regular basis. He told me he had already cleaned his room and done everything that was expected of him, and now he was going over and beyond what we normally expect from him.

Looking around the living room, I certainly appreciated his desire to clean up. Having a busy household makes it tempting to accept help when ever offered. I really liked his initiative and the fact that he was not taking no for an answer.

While watching him negotiate with me, I had a vision of him in 15 years standing before a boss where he would be doing the same exact thing with great success. It made me smile. I immediately knew that I would allow him to clean up for a fee, but first we were going to negotiate.


I told him that since my car was in the shop he would not be able to wash my car. Also, that some of the things he would be cleaning were his own. Accordingly, his services would only be valued at $10 instead of $15 he was asking for. The moment I started negotiating on price I saw that twinkle in his eye and he knew that he had won.

He would not accept $10 under any circumstance. He took a firm stand and said that what he was doing was clearly worth more than $15 but I was getting a discount because of who I was. Wow. A family discount!

Finally, after an aggressive five minutes going back and forth I told him I would pay him $12. He agreed. For the next 45 minutes he did all the work he promised to do. He came upstairs to the office, and then took me by the hand and proceeded to show me what he had done. I was proud of him. He lived up to his word. I took out my cash and gave him $12. But that wasn’t good enough for him. He said “Thank you, but I did much more than I said I would do. So now you have to give me $15.”

I looked at him and wanted to smile. I knew that if I did crack a smile he would know that he’d won once again. I kept a straight face and told him that was not what we bargained for. He did the work that he promised to do and I paid him what I promised to pay him. Yet he was insistent.

From his point of view, he had done more than he bargained for. In his view, he was entitled to receive more than was promised to him. He wanted those extra three dollars. I was firm with him. I told him that was our agreement and that was the end of it.


At the end of our transaction, I realized there was one tip I could give him that would have dramatically made him feel better. I didn’t have a chance to tell him last night and I’ll tell him later today.

At the time we agreed on the amount of work to be done and what he would be paid for those services, what he should have done was demand payment up front. This way he would’ve gotten immediately paid and not have to worry about collecting afterwards. Chances are I probably would not have paid him in total upfront but would’ve split half up front and given him the other half upon completion.

What’s the take away message here?

There are many. When you have an objective in mind, come up with multiple creative ways and options that will allow you to achieve your objective. Do not wait for anyone to hand it to you on a silver platter. They won’t. Take the initiative and make things happen. Imperfect action is always better than inaction.

Finally, when you have identified what you want, make sure you understand the value you are paying for those services. You may not realize it but you can learn quite a lot from negotiating with a nine-year-old. I did.

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Gerry-- This is truly one of the BEST videos explaining this little known fact I have EVER seen produced by a personal injury attorney! Well done!

Stephen Fairley
Rainmaker Institute