Children are natural-born negotiators. At a very early age, they realize the word “no” is not the end of the discussion, but the beginning. If you ask a toddler to eat his broccoli and he says no, he intuitively knows you will start making deals. “If you eat your veggies, I’ll give you some ice cream,” is a typical parental response.
Jim Camp, negotiation coach, trainer and author of the book “NO: The Only Negotiating System You Need for Work and Home,” offers these tips for negotiating with your children:
• Start with “no.” Resist the urge to offer a compromise from the get-go. Instead, start by inviting your child to say no to your (better) proposal — but don’t tell her what it is yet. This puts her at ease and gets her paying attention — without an attitude — because she feels you’ve given her an “out.”
• Focus on what you can control. You can’t control the outcome of this discussion, so don’t dwell on the results. Let’s say you want your teen to give up a weekend party to attend a family event. Don’t start thinking about what will happen if he does or doesn’t go. If you do, he’ll sense your desperation and circle in for the kill. Instead, bring all of your focus to your behavior — your calm tone of voice and delivery, listening instead of speaking, and asking good questions, and shaping a solution that he’ll see as being to his advantage.
• Leave all emotions outside the door. Turn your mind into a blank slate. Exercise self-control so you have no expectations, fears or judgments. Above all, don’t be needy during your talk. Don’t lose your temper, beg, scold or try to please. Just stay neutral.
• Get your child spilling the beans. Ask great questions that begin with what, why, and how so he can’t give one-word answers. Find out what your child sees as potential problems and deal breakers. Let’s say the issue is homework. Ask: What purpose does the homework serve? How are these beneficial to you? Get your child talking about all the ways study skills, good grades, following through on commitments, finishing assignments, etc., will be useful to her.
• Build a vision for him. Help your child see how your proposed solution will benefit him. For example, he’s playing too many video games. Because you’ve gathered a lot of information from him, you know that he sees it as his social life, that he can’t think of alternative activities, and that he likes the challenge. Now you have the building blocks for proposing a different solution. You might suggest a real-live play date with a friend, instead of a virtual one online. You might help him see that cutting down on his video time will give him more time to do five other things he loves more.