Should you negotiate with your child? This is the issue that parents sometimes grapple with. First things first – some issues have no room for discussion. For example, your child is never allowed to open medicine bottles or run across a busy road.
But there is a potential for negotiation in other areas of conflict.
For example, forcing her to wear a red T-shirt when she loves the green one will simply leave both of you frustrated.
Once you try negotiating with her, you’ll find it’s easier than you think, and you’ll like the results.
Try these negotiation strategies:
State your position clearly
Instead of pulling rank – “You’ll do what I tell you because I’m the parent and you’re the child” – give your child reasons.
After all, you can force her to come with you to Grandma’s party, but you can’t force her to be in a good mood there.
If you explain, for instance, that Grandma will be happy if she attends, that there will be plenty to eat, and that her cousins will be there, she’s more likely to cooperate.
Hear her side of the story
Listen to her objections – for example, she will be bored, she has nothing to say to her relatives, she wants to watch TV at home or go on a play date with her friends.
It’s important to show that you understand and let her see that you appreciate her concerns.
You don’t have to agree with her objections; you just have to show that you can see things from her point of view.
Stress the positives
Point out how your request will benefit her. You want your preschooler to tidy up her room now instead of watching her favourite DVD because that will make you happy.
She will also be more comfortable in her room when the mess is cleared up, and she’ll be able to find her toys more easily. She’s more likely to agree when she realises the benefits for herself and others.
Once you have heard her point of view, you may decide to be flexible.
For example, you allow her to stay up for an extra 10 minutes so she can watch TV for a while more. Point out that you are willing to change your position to help her, so she should do the same for you.
It’s important that she understands you are both making concessions.
Acknowledge the negotiation
Once you reach an agreement, tell her how pleased you are that you have worked this out together.
Add that you can’t have such flexibility every time the both of you have different ideas about her activities, but that you will usually be willing to listen to what she has to say.
That way, she’ll learn that negotiation allows both sides to get what they want.