How Parents Can Effectively Negotiate With Their Children

Parents should avoid compromises with children during tense times

A mother having a discussion with her son.
A mother having a discussion with her son. Tetra Images/Getty Images

Parents who've attempted to negotiate with children when emotions are running high know that trying to reason with kids in this state is an exercise in futility. The children typically don't respond well, and parents often lose patience.

Ask Questions, Don't Make Demands

Phrase your requests as questions so that your child has the opportunity to say "Yes." He will listen more if he feels he is in control.

If you say, "Would you like to pick out your short?" you are more likely to get cooperation than if you say, "Put on your shirt right now!"

Get Kids Involved

Let your kid "help" you make decisions, at least let them feel like they are helping. If it's getting near bedtime, you could say, "How many more minutes do you want to draw before bedtime?" If you are discussing discipline, you could say, "What do you think would be a reasonable consequence for hitting your sister?" Of course parents have the final say, but if his answer is appropriate and not testing limits, you should take him up on it. This shows mutual respect.

Remain Calm and Show Empathy

When parents try to communicate with their children when any party is upset, it's unlikely that the children will remember the message their parents want to get across. Instead, they're likely to remember the emotions involved. Accordingly, parents should remember their child's age and maturity, and depending on the issue at hand, consider letting feelings settle before reasoning or negotiating with the youth.

This strategy will allow parents to have a more effective conversation with children at a later time. Of course, this advice doesn't apply when children are involved in situations that put them in harm's way.

Use Age-Appropriate Logic and Language

When negotiating with your child, remember he is a child!

Using sarcasm or adult logic will not get your very far and will likely increase your child's frustration. If you are not sure if your child understands something you are asking, ask him!

Teach Problem Solving

Problem solving is a wonderful skill to teach children. If your child tells you to stop nagging him to clean his room or take a bath, you could ask, "How would you manage this yourself? When would you like to do it?" This gives your child some independence and power and also gets them thinking about ways to solve problems.

Write Down solutions

Have family meetings where you all get together, list ideas and discuss solutions. Do not allow for criticism and allow everyone an equal change to speak. You could also have a negotiation by writing down both sides and looking at the pros and cons.

Pick Your Battles

Pick your battles wisely and remember that changing your mind does not mean you are losing. You might say, "OK, I agree with you. But let's make a deal that next time you will get off the IPad the first time I ask."

Actions Speak Louder Than Words During Compromises

Attempts to compromise with children will always go more smoothly if parents remain even-keeled. Hence, it's important for parents not to react angrily to children but to speak softly and gently to them. This gives children the chance to reflect on their actions rather than to focus on their parents' anger. It also allows parents to remain in control.

A parent might tell a child, "If you pick up your toys right now and go brush your teeth, we'll watch a movie together afterward. Otherwise, it's bedtime in five minutes." If the child does not take the appropriate action within the time allotted, the parent should calmly prepare to put the child to bed. Not reacting angrily to the child allows the little one to reflect on the consequence.

The next morning at breakfast, the parent might again offer the child the opportunity to watch a film if the child picks up his toys and brushes his teeth. This negotiation is likely to pay off since the parent and child are both calm in this setting rather than butting heads over the child's yet-to-be cleaned mess. During calm times, children can think and learn at their best.

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