This Is How Thoughtful Parents Avoid Negotiating with Children

negotiating with child
Photo by Studio 37/shutterstock

We are grown-ups of the New Age, right? It is no longer a just-do-as-I-say world. We respect our kids and want them to feel heard and understood. If we are so awesome at this, then why am I spending hours negotiating with my kid while the veins in my head feel like they are going to explode???

Negotiations — unlike listening, respecting, and hearing your children — get you (and them) nowhere except to Angerland. You can hear and respect your child without him turning the conversations in your home into a used car deal, each party trying to get their voice heard and demands met. Here are 4 ways to nix the negotiations:

Be clear about what is NOT going to happen.

Adults tend to beat around the bush when giving a no, an unwanted answer or request. It softens the blow. That is fine with other adults, but kids find that talk highly confusing. You don’t seem sure of what you want, so they see wiggle room and try for their need, and get frustrated when you do not give it.

Instead of, “It may be time for a bath soon,” be clear: “It is time for a bath now.” Instead of, “I don’t think it’s such a great idea to have cookies before lunch,” be clear: “No cookies before lunch. You need to fill your growing body with healthy foods.”

Clarity is a key to nixing negotiations.

Be clear about what CAN happen.

A big parenting faux pas is only focusing on the negative. It is easy to constantly say what NOT to do, but throwing some positives in there can end those negotiation battles. Instead of, “No you can’t go outside, I am working,” try, “You can play anywhere inside for now, and after nap I will take you to the park. Where are you going to play now?” Instead of, “No, you can’t have hotdogs for dinner again,” try, “Hotdogs ARE delicious, but we just had them last night. Tonight is pasta, but we can do hotdogs again next week.”

See if you can find a positive spin and nix negotiations.
Cheeky kid

Hear your child’s ideas.

Let me be clear: I want you to nix negotiations, not discussions or freedom of expression. Give kids room to provide their thoughts: “You cannot watch a movie, but what would you like to do after dinner tonight?” “You cannot have soup for lunch – we do not have any. What else sounds good that is healthy?” Who knows, they may come up with the perfect idea or solution.

The key is to let them have their turn to speak and problem solve, but not to turn it into a negotiation. Be sure to steer the conversation – that way it stays a conversation and not a debate, so you nix negotiations.

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Give choices.

You do not have to be a dictator in order to avoid nagging negotiations. Giving a few choices can be just what your child needs to feel included in her life’s path. “It is bath-time soon. Do you want to go now or in 5 minutes?” What keeps this from being a negotiation is sticking with the choices that you laid out. “Can I have 7 minutes?” “I was clear, now or in 5.”

You may wonder what the big deal is about giving that two more minutes. It’s only 2 minutes, right? THIS time. Next time it will be more time perhaps, or a bigger deal being made, or enormous tantrums begin. Give choices, but nix negotiations by sticking to those choices.

To sum it up, discussions and expressions of ideas and feelings are fine, but sometimes you DO know best. Negotiations seem cute at first, but they halt your day, make both parties angry, and teach your child that there is always a way to get what you want. Life just isn’t like that. Sometimes things are what they are. Nix negotiations and make the communication in your home more productive and pleasant.

boy with bad posture
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Brandi Davis, ACC, is a professional Parenting Coach, Parent Educator, and Author of O.K. I’m A Parent Now What? She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and be sure to catch her parenting podcasts on iTunes. The goal of Brandi’s practice is to bring respect, calm communication, teamwork, and FUN into the home or classroom. Stop by brandi-davis.com.

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