As parents, you may have said these words a million times to your children.
“Put the video game away and complete your homework.”
“Go with your grandmother to the temple.”
“Watch your sister while I make dinner.”
You have also heard the responses.
“Just ten more minutes.”
“I’ll go tomorrow. I am going out to play with my friends right now.”
“I am watching my favorite show on TV.”
Life with children is an ongoing negotiation; be it about sleeping on time, studying, watching TV, or spending time on the computer. The word “negotiating” sounds like a “bad” word. Should you be negotiating with our children at all? But whether you like it or not, you are all doing it.
Negotiating with children is a challenging process, which when not done right leads to unhappiness and frustration. As parents, you may feel you gave in too early while your children may feel they had no say in the matter. Whatever the outcome, someone is always unhappy. So, how can you negotiate more successfully with your children?
Let’s look at some of the negotiating skills you use at work and see how you can translate these into negotiating with your children at home. At work you usually proceed with a plan that involves initiating a discussion, identifying the problem at hand, discussing possible solutions and listing them down, analyzing all the solutions to narrow down on one, implementing the solution, and reviewing at a later date to assess its effectiveness and tweaking the solution, if required.
These things come naturally to you when you are at work. Now you can try them at home.
Initiate a discussion
Get together in a room with your child and initiate a discussion on the issue at hand. You could start the discussion with something like, “So, here’s a situation. Let’s figure out how we can resolve it.” This conveys that the problem or the issue is not with the child but an issue you are dealing with together. By not accusing the child of having a problem, you are avoiding a situation where the child might get defensive right at the start.
State the problem clearly
It’s important to state the problem clearly. If the problem is that the child is watching TV for three hours every day then say it. But at the same time, remember not to club issues together. For example, you may say, “You are playing too many video games and that’s why you are not getting good grades.” If that’s actually the case, then state it but if playing video games is either not clearly the reason for low grades or not the only reason for low grades, then don’t link the two. Be specific to the problem at hand.
Write down everyone’s ideas
Make a list of all the ideas proposed during the discussion. Remember not to reject or criticize any idea, however bizarre it may sound. While sharing ideas, listen to your child’s point of view. It’s a valid point of view.
Discuss all ideas and narrow down to a solution
Once all the ideas are on the table, you can start to narrow down to a solution. With consensus, delete, add, or club ideas to identify a few possible solutions. It may not always be possible to narrow down to one solution but through discussion, everyone can be persuaded to try out a solution to start with.
Once the solution is decided, it is important to run through how it will be implemented so that everyone knows what they are supposed to do.
Propose a review of the solution
Propose a review date for the solution to see how well it is working. This gives you an option to revisit the solution and if it is not working, you can suggest some changes to make it more effective.
Here is what this approach does.
1. It targets the problem and not the persons involved; parents or children. This prevents any resentment from brewing between the two
2. It derives solutions through consensus, making the children feel involved in the decision-making process. This makes it more likely to succeed
3. The ideation and open discussion helps build trust between parents and children
4. It teaches children to resolve issues amicably
So, next time you negotiate with your children, remember that negotiating is not about winning or losing. It’s about exploring options objectively and creating a win–win situation for all.
is the founder director of Parwarish Institute of Parenting. In his professional career spanning 20 years, he has worked in various industries such as manufacturing, venture capital financing, banking, insurance, and education and training. As the founder of Parwarish, he has developed interactive workshops for parents and teachers to deal with issues related to children, such as studies, sex education, time management, technology, and so on. Sushant received the Best Teacher and Parent Coach Award from the Federation of Public Schools of Delhi. Parwarish won the Education INNOVATOR Award at the fifth Ed Leadership International Conference held at Lucknow, October 2011. This award is conferred by The Council for Global Education, USA, The Center For Innovation in Education, USA, and Ed Leadership and City Montessori School, Lucknow.