Are you are quick to protest, “No Way! I’m in charge!” and insist that you will never negotiate with your child because you are, after all, the parent?
Before you dismiss the idea of negotiating with your child, ask yourself this: Does it seem like every time you say “No,” it turns into an argument or a tug-of-war?
If so, perhaps a little negotiating in your home can alleviate some of the conflicts. The trick is learning when and how to negotiate in such a way that kids are not parenting themselves and parents are compromising on the right things.
Negotiating is an important life skill. It means coming to an agreement through discussion. The purpose of negotiating is to find a compromise. But kids can also use negotiation as a way to get around something to get what they want.
EmpoweringParents.Com explains the difference between negotiating around and negotiating with:
So what does it look like to negotiate with your child? Say you are discussing how much allowance is going to be paid for chores your son will do around the house. You may say, “I will pay you $5 each week if you keep your room clean, clean the guest bathroom and vacuum the living room every Saturday.” And your son comes back with, “If I take out the trash too, will you give me $10?” That’s negotiating with you.
The key here is that there’s room for give and take because you’re still discussing the matter. It’s not a request to which you’ve already said no. You are still thinking over the pros and cons and getting your child’s input, prior to giving an answer. Together, you are coming to an agreement about a fair decision or compromise. Discussions with your child that take place after you’ve given your decision are not negotiations! What’s happening in those cases is that your child is negotiating around you. They are trying to get their way, not find common ground.
Before you get into negotiations with your child, keep these guidelines in mind:
Decide what the non-negotiables are in your home.
These are the boundaries that your child should not cross. These are the safety fences that are defined for their own good.
Perhaps it relates to drugs/alcholol, honesty, or academic efforts. As a family, talk about what those non-negotiables are in your home and don’t let your kids talk you out of them. Your kids need to know that there are boundaries that you will absolutely not allow them to cross.
Respond instead of React.
When you are busy and your child keeps asking you for permission to do something, it’s easy for parents to let kids wear them down and react without really thinking about their child’s request. That often feels like the quick and easy way to handle it.
But quick reactions often result in buyer’s remorse, with parents regretting their first answer. It’s okay to tell your child that you need to think about their request for a few minutes. Take the time you need to think about what’s best for your child and your family in the long run before you answer. Gather all the information you need before answering your child and be sure to make your expectations are clear.
Know when to flex and when NOT to.
One of tools I tell parents to use in their parenting is the tool of being flexible. As I mentioned earlier, there should be non-negotiables in your home, but how do you know what those non-negotiables should be? How do parents know when they should flex and when they should stand strong?
This question is easier to answer when a family has established core values. As I work with parents, I help them establish core values in their homes and those values are the back-bone of the non-negotiables they establish.
For instance, a family I recently worked with listed Respect as one of their family’s core values. Their statement was: We respect ourselves and others, we treat others how we’d like to be treated.
So a non-negotiable related to that value would be how they treat their siblings or their teachers or friends. In that home, there should be no negotiations regarding kids getting away with disrespecting another person.
Core values guide your non-negotiables and once you’ve determined both of those, you can step back and see other, less important areas where you could be more flexible.
Look for ways to flex in areas that are not related to a family core value. Stand strong in the areas that are.
Maybe you can be flexible with what they choose to wear to school or what they feel like eating for a snack or whether they feel like having friends over. There are lots of opportunities to be flexible that will not compromise your family’s core values. These are the areas that are open for negotiation.
Decide your overall goal.
Before you give in to your child or engage in a winner-take-all battle, ask yourself what’s most important. Remember these two questions: What does your child really need to learn in this situation and what is the best way for you to help them learn it?
Keeping the overall goal in mind, you can decide how much you are willing to give as you negotiate with your child. This is not a matter of “I’m the parent and that’s all there is to say.” Let your child speak their thoughts, let them know you value their opinions, and then let them know that there is a time and a place to compromise, and there also is a time and a place NOT to.
Negotiations are inevitable.
You’re going to negotiate with your kids today, probably multiple times. According to one informal survey of 2,000 parents, we negotiate with our children an average of six times a day (lasting about eight minutes each, or 24 hours a month). Imagine how much these numbers have escalated under the circumstances many now find themselves — working at home and being with their kids 24/7. (Harvard Business Review)
Knowing when and how to negotiate, knowing when to stop and think through the issue without reacting and saying the first thing that comes to mind, knowing why you are flexing and why you are standing your ground–this type of parenting takes work, patience, planning, and intentionality.
It’s always less work to parent only in the moment and do what we think is going to make our lives easier. Learning the art of negotiating with your kids is one of those skills that is worth honing if you want to minimize conflict in the home and ultimately raise champions.
If you’d like to learn more about the tools I offer parents, call me for a free intro call here.