How to Negotiate with Children

How to Negotiate with ChildrenNegotiation is a part of our lives, whether we like it or not. We negotiate some of the most important aspects of our lives: our homes, jobs and even our friendships. It is then unsurprising that we will go on to negotiate with our children. Children are negotiation experts; they have nothing to lose and everything to gain from negotiations. Negotiating with your child can be difficult, so we’ve outlined some key things you need to take into consideration so you can learn how to negotiate with children.

Not Everything is Negotiable

As a parent you need to decide on some hard and fixed rules that are not open for negotiation. If you make everything in the home negotiable, your children will always start to question everything you say. It’s important that your child still sees you as an authority figure, so make sure some rules and regulations are hard and fixed.

Often children will want to test the limits and will intentionally bicker with parents to see how far they can push them – this is not negotiation. This is simply manipulation. As a parent it is very important that you learn to tell the difference between negotiation and manipulation.

If things become heated in your discussions for negotiation, simply walk away and cool down. You need to be in the best mood possible before you tackle this task with your child. The same applies to your child, you both want to be feeling at least neutral before you start your negotiations!

What is Negotiation?

Negotiation can be loosely defined as two people, or groups, coming together to discuss ideas and coming to a middle ground – a compromise. When emotions are high it is very unlikely that the two parties will be able to come to a positive end point and so negotiation should be avoided when there are strong emotions involved.

For this reason, bickering or arguing with your child is not a form of negotiation. Negotiation needs to occur when everyone involved is in a clear frame of mind that they can accurately articulate their thoughts and opinions. Life is all about perspective and your child is going to have a substantially different perspective on things – and negotiation can be a great opportunity to learn more about the perspective and to meet them in the middle.

How to Negotiate With Children Successfully

Be Optimistic
You need to go into negotiation wanting to start an agreement, not an argument. As the parent you need to lead the negotiations with optimism and an open mind.

Get Your Child Involved
Things will you have to negotiate on a regular basis include bedtime, how much time is spent watching TV and using the Internet and cellphone usage, if your child has one. The simple fact is what you think your child should be doing will differ significantly from what your child thinks they should be doing, or rather what your child wants to do. The best way to approach this is to simply ask them.

If they’re finishing a school project and it’s creeping up to their bedtime, simply ask them how long they think it will take to finish. If it’s reasonable, explain that you want them to get their project finished and that’s fine. If it’s going to be too late, meet them in the middle somewhere. Take their opinion on board, especially when it’s presented in a fair and reasonable way.

Be Fair
As a parent, you are in control and sometimes it is easy to go on a small power trip. Bare in mind that as your child ages they are longing for more independence and to become their own person. It’s best to grant them that independence in small chunks, rather than have them try to rip it away from you. Be fair and reasonable and where possible take the time to explain your reasoning, your child will appreciate it.

It can be difficult figuring out how to negotiate with children, but it is one of the most important things you can learn. Have you tried to negotiate with your children? What has worked for you in the past and what have you found to be a complete disaster? Let us know. Send us an email on questions@homecontract.org.