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How to Negotiate with Your Child: When to Give Choices and When to Stand Your Ground

How to Negotiate with Your Child: When to Give Choices and When to Stand Your Ground

“I’ll clean my room only if you let Nina come over.” “I’ll eat all my broccoli only if I can have ice cream.” You heard it a dozen times, the “only if” phrase. You used to use it on them yourself, but somehow it got hijacked by your child along the way and now you feel like you are facing a pint-sized lawyer out to negotiate a big deal, only this deal involves housework, food or bedtimes. So are you facing a lawyer-to-be or have you merely created a willful spoiled child?

Should you negotiate with your child? Some parents and specialists[1] say “never” because it will just undermine your parenting, while others suggest that negotiating with your child teaches them the important soft skill of learning to deal with conflicts[2]. In reality, it depends on you and your child.

To Negotiate or Not Negotiate? That is the Question.

Circumstance decrees whether areas are open for negotiation with your child or not.

Non-negotiable: When to stand your ground

Some things in life will be cut and dry – like wearing a seat belt in the car. If they are on the verge of doing something that could be harmful to themselves or others – that’s a resounding ‘No!” Be firm and non-negotiable when it comes to your child’s safety.

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Let them know that they will be holding your hands through the busy parking lot or there will be consequences. Follow through with those consequences. Let them know that sitting in that car seat and wearing that seat belt is the law. These are non-negotiable areas. Period.

Open for Negotiation

There are a myriad of areas that can be open for negotiation. Meal time choices, television programs, clothing choices, hair decisions, staying over at friend’s houses. Maybe even to bathe or not to bathe every now and then.

Boost their self confidence by giving them a small victory. This does not mean you are weak and they are strong, but if you gave a resounding no to something they wanted badly, consider why you are saying no in the first place. Is purple hair really that horrific? They may learn their own lesson by living through a week or two of multi-colored locks. Though naysayers may disagree, sometimes you should let them go ahead, negotiate and win.

How to Negotiate with Your Child

Negotiating with your child should not crumble into an all out scream match- that’s a heated argument. Before you begin the fine art of negotiation, check out these tips to help smooth the way.

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Don’t be a Dictator: Give Choices

When you bark orders to your child, it is human instinct to want to rebel. You need them to clean the room? Instead of laying down a dictatorial decree, offer choices. Kids love choices because then they feel they have a say in what is going on. The moment your kids hit school, they are told to sit down, be quiet and do their work. This is where rebellion at home rears it’s head. They have a need to rebel against something because they are stripped of control of their life when they are at school.

Instead of declaring war by telling them to clean their room, try a more subtle approach. Would you like to clean your room before dinner or after? Or would you like to clean your room or help your dad clear out the garden shed? You may be surprised at how many kids dive into cleaning that room when presented with a much less favorable option!

Always Keep Your Cool

As any savvy negotiator can tell you, you need to check those emotions in at the door. Always keep your cool in dealing with a child. They may begin to go into melt down mode and you can use distraction and choice-offering tactics instead of yelling. Your emotions, or lack of them, will set the tone for the negotiation.

Do Not Allow Yourself to Be Manipulated

Yes, kids do try and manipulate their parents. If you feel your child is trying to work at your emotions, stop the discussion there. “Mom, we need this puppy! Isn’t he adorable? Didn’t you say I needed a friend? He doesn’t have a home.” Remember to hold those emotions in check. If you live in an apartment with strict rules, adding a dog to the family may not be a logical idea.

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If your child throws temper tantrums to get their way – that is manipulation. Do not cave in, you will only be rewarding their behavior and setting the stage for future temper tantrums. Kids are smart. They can see what works. Set consequences for bad behavior, like taking away their favorite game for a week, and carry them through. Let them know that you mean business.

Let Them Know Why You Make Certain Decisions For Them

If you definitely won’t let them go to a certain friends house, let them know why. It may be because there are extremely unstable family dynamics there or an older cousin who drinks too much who hangs at their house – whatever reason, let your child see the situation from your shoes. If you won’t allow them to cross the street alone- maybe there are too many cars on that road, perhaps you witnessed an accident there. Communicate how you see things with them.

Let Them Present Their Case

Allow your child to debate certain decisions with you, like a later bed time or having a friend over on a weekday. Older kids will tend to arm themselves with dozens of good reasons. Listen to their argument and then present yours. Choose a practical solution that will suit both of your needs.

Negotiation is about compromising, not winning or losing. A 30 minute later bedtime after Spring Break is over, contingent on your child’s ability to get themselves ready for school on time, or a lax bedtime on weekends if waking up is a problem. And as for that weekday sleepover? Will both children get any sleep at all? Maybe Friday night would be a better day.

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Know You Are the Captain

Always remember that there can only be one captain on a boat, and that is you. You are always the boss. You are the adult, after all. You may be open for negotiations on certain subjects, but any decision that comes from negotiation with your child must be acceptable to you in the end.

Whether or not you decide to let your child negotiate with you is your option. Give them choices instead of dictatorial decrees to alleviate arguments. Remember safety comes first and there are certain areas that are non-negotiable. Listen to them and explain why you make certain decisions and always check your emotions in at the door. Who knows, your little master negotiator may become a lawyer one day.

Reference

[1] Brenna Hicks. TheKidCounselor.com: Stop Negotiating with Your Children
[2] PBSParents. PBS.org: Talking with Kids

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Last Updated on May 7, 2019

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

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    They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

    Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

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        1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
        2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
        3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
        4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
        5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

        How to Spot a Wolf

          Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

          Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

          A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

          A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

          Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

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          Ask Questions, the More the Better

          There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

          When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

          Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

          They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

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          Wolves Are Everywhere

          As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

          Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

          Reference

          [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
          [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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