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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 September 11, 2020

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

No one wants to suffer. As a general rule, people like to avoid hurt and pain as much as possible. As a species, humans want a painless existence so much that scientists make a living trying to create it.

People can now choose “pain-free” labor for babies, and remedies to cure back pain, headaches, body-pains and even mental pains are a dime a dozen. Beyond medicine, we also work hard to experience little pain even when it comes to loss; often times we believe a breakup won’t hurt as much if we are the ones to call it off.

But would a world without pain truly be painless? It’s unlikely. In fact, it would probably be painful exactly for that reason.

If people never experienced hurt, they wouldn’t know what it was. On the surface level, that seems like a blessing, but think for a moment: if we didn’t know pain, how would we know peace? If you don’t know you’ve hurt or been hurt, how would you know that you need to heal? Imagine someone only knowing they have an incurable cancer at the final stage because no obvious symptoms have appeared at early stages.

Without the feeling of pain, people won’t be aware of dangerous situations—what should or shouldn’t do for survival.

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Pain Is Our Guardian

Pain serves to protect human beings from harmful actions. It’s the same reason parents teach babies that fire equals hot, and that hot equals hurt. Should the baby still place its hand in a fire or on a stove, the intense pain remains so memorable, that the child is certain never to repeat that action.

In the same way, pain within human bodies can serve as a warning that something is not right. Because you know what it is to feel “well,” you know what it is to feel poorly.[1]

Along with serving as a teacher of what not to do, pain also teaches you what you are made of in terms of what you can handle as an individual.

While the cliche, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a tired term, it’s used excessively for a reason: it’s true. Pain helps you learn to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties and sadnesses— to develop the grit it takes to push past hardships and carry on.

Whether it’s a shattering pain, like the loss of a loved one or a debilitating accident, pain affects everyone differently. But it still affects everyone. Take a breakup as an example, anyone who has experienced it knows it can hurt to the point of feeling physical. Especially the first breakup. At a young age, it feels like the loss of the only love you’ll ever know. As you grow and learn, you realize you’re more resilient with every ended relationship.

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No Pain, No Happiness

You only know happiness when you have known pain. While the idea of constant happiness sounds nice, there is little chance it would be. Without the comparison to happiness, there’s no reason to be grateful for it. That is to say, without ever knowing sadness or pain, you would have no reason to be grateful for happiness.

In reality, there is always something missing, or something unpleasant, but it is only through those realizations that you know to be grateful when you feel you have it all. Read more about why happiness and pain have to exist together: Chasing Happiness Won’t Make You Happy

In a somewhat counter-intuitive finding, researchers found one of the things that brings about the most happiness is challenge. When people are tested, they experience a greater sense of accomplishment and happiness when they are successful. It is largely for this reason that low-income individuals can often feel happier than those who have a sense of wealth.[2]

This is a great thing to remember the next time you feel you would be happier if you just had a little more cash.

Avoiding Pain Leads to More Suffering

Pain is inevitable, embrace it positively. Anyone who strives to have a painless life is striving for perfectionism; and perfectionism guarantees sadness because nothing will ever be perfect.

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This isn’t a bleak outlook, but rather a truthful one. The messy moments in life tend to create the best memories and gratitude. Pain often serves as a reminder of lessons learned, much like physical scars on the body.

Pain will always be painful, but it’s the hurt feelings that help wiser decisions be made.

Allow Room for the Inevitable

Learning how to tolerate pain, especially the emotional kind, is a valuable lesson.

Accepting and feeling pain makes you human. There is no weakness in that. Weakness only comes when you try to blame your own pain on someone else, expecting the blame to alleviate your hurting. There’s a saying,

“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.”

Think back to the last time you were really angry with someone. Maybe you were hurt because you got laid off from a job. You felt angry and that anger caused so much pain that you could feel it in a physical way. Being angry and blaming your ex boss for that pain didn’t affect him or her in any way; you’re the only one who lost sleep over it.

The healthier thing to do in a situation like that is acknowledge your pain and the anger along with it. Accept it and explore it in an introspective way. How can you learn and grow? What is at the root of that pain? Are you truly hurting and angry about being laid off, or is the pain more a correlation to you feeling like you failed?

While uncomfortable, exploring your pain is a way to raise your self-awareness. By understanding more about yourself, you know how to deal with similar situations in the future. You can never expect to be numb to difficult situations, but you will learn to better prepare financially for the loss of a job and be grateful for an income since you now know nothing is promised (no matter how much you work or how deserving you may feel).

Pain Hurts, but Numbness Would Be Worse

Pain does not feel good, but the bad feeling of it will help you learn and grow. It makes the sweet moments in life even sweeter and the gratitude more sincere.

To have a happier and more successful life, you don’t learn from success or accomplishment, but through pain and failures. For it is in those moments that you learn how to do better in the future or at least cope a little more easily.

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You are the strong person you are today because of the hardships this life has presented to you. While you may have felt out of control when those hard times came, the one thing you will always have control over is how you choose to react to things. The next time you hurt or you’re angry or sad, acknowledge it and allow yourself to ruminate in it. Then take a deep breath and start learning from that pain. You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] University of Calgary: Why is Pain Important?
[2] Greater Good Magazine: The Importance of Pain

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