Every parent knows the importance of negotiation. Think about the last time you 'discussed' with your child why they had to finish their homework before visiting a friend. Or tried to entice your child with the option of pudding but only if they ate all their dinner first.
Some days you end up feeling a bit like a UN peacekeeper working tirelessly to keep you and your children happy. It can be exhausting so here are some tips to help make it easier.
The definition of negotiate means to 'deal or bargain with another' and so it is important that before you begin the bargaining you have an idea in your own mind what the rules for the discussion are going to be, and what things you might be willing to concede and what things you are not. This immediately gives you and your child clarity and helps them understand that negotiating is a process of give and take for both parties. By using this clear structure for discussions, it becomes easier for your child to understand what you require of them and what you are prepared to do to encourage them to do it.
It may feel a bit strict but this approach will take away some of the conflict by helping your child understand what is non-negotiable but also where they have some freedom. It will also allow you in time to increase what can be negotiated so your child then recognises as they get older, you will give them greater freedom and, importantly greater responsibility for their own behaviour and the rewards that this can earn. This is really important, particularly if they have younger siblings.
Negotiating, or using discussions and rewards is a very powerful way of shaping childrens behaviour. It is not about obstructing your child from opportunity or participation, which is how they may perceive it, and so it is important that you demonstrate to them that you are willing to be flexible and meet them half way. Also by modelling for them calm and reasoned debating skills you are helping them develop their own negotiating skills for the future. A very useful life skill indeed.
When it comes to negotiations around birthdays and presents, there are tools to help such as PKTMNY. This is an online tool that supports you to have a conversation with your child about creating a 'wish list' with a total monetary value. Use it to agree how much they can ask for and give your child the freedom (and responsibility) to choose how they want to spend their money when they receive it. You avoid having to negotiate on what to give them and they learn the value of money by managing a budget to get what they want.
The key for me with all of this is to make negotiation a positive conversation, not a source of conflict. If you get it right, then it's also a really powerful way of reinforcing the good behaviour that will set your child up for the future.
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