If you have children then you know just how naturally skilled they are at negotiating. You say, “It’s time for bed,” they say, “Five more minutes.” You say, “Eat all your peas,” they say, “I’ll eat half.” The thing is, while you have your child’s long-term best interest in mind, they have their immediate gratification guiding their motivation. And this is a good thing, we want our kids to know what they want & to know how to use their skills to get what they want. You don’t want to squish their innate desires or train them to simply do as they are told. Instead, your responsibility as a parent is to teach them appropriate ways to get what they want by making win-win deals that leave all parties involved happy.
Negotiating doesn’t necessarily mean giving in. It means that you give your child the opportunity to exercise his voice & mediate for his personal wants & needs. Negotiating with your children is an important part of parenting. Children need a little say in their lives. When they feel like they have some control they are more likely to obey & go along with what you say. Also, it better prepares them for the inevitable onslaught of choices they will face over the coming years. It’s important to consider your child’s age & ability when negotiating. Keep things at a level that she can understand.
My husband & I introduced negotiations with our oldest when he was just under four. He picked up the process pretty quick. We made it fun, almost like a game. He would propose a deal & we would negotiate until a win-win answer could be agreed on. There was nothing cuter than hearing his little high pitched toddler voice saying, “deal” or “no deal.” Now that he’s older he’s mastered negotiations & has set his eight-year-old sites on a future in law. Regardless of what career path he takes understanding how to cooperate, compromise, & mediate will be invaluable.
HOW TO MAKE A DEAL:
- GET YOUR EMOTIONS IN CHECK: Remaining calm is vital to good negotiation. Kids are especially good at reading emotions & any negative or heightened emotion will work against you.
- HEAR THEM OUT: Give them a chance to explain where he is coming from, what he wants, & how he is willing to compromise.
- CONSIDER THEIR POINT OF VIEW: Now that you’ve heard what she has to say take a moment or two to really contemplate her feelings.
- EXPLAIN YOUR POINT OF VIEW: This is your opportunity to expound on your parenting philosophy & let your child know what you think & why.
- TEACH: It’s really easy to abuse our parental power by bossing & being demanding with our children, but that doesn’t do anyone any good. In a negotiation we have the opportunity to teach our children about compromise, empathy, team work, considering others, & ultimately appropriate ways to get what they want.
- Brainstorm possible solutions together: be sure to recommend acceptable solutions but also encourage your child to come up with a few ideas.
- Find something you can both agree on: there is almost always a middle ground. Remember it requires a little give & take on both sides.
- Sometimes it’s okay to let your child win.
- DISCIPLINE: While the goal is to come to a mutual agreement don’t forget that you do have the final say. It’s best to work with your kids but that isn’t always the answer. Sometimes we have to exercise our authority & just do what is best for our children if an acceptable agreement couldn’t be made.
So next time your child asks for a new bike or an Oreo milkshake before dinner use these steps & see if you can strike a deal.
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