Hari was playing a tune on the keyboard after dinner, when his mother asked him to put on his nightdress. Hari answered, “But, I don’t want to sleep now.” Hari associated putting on the nightdress with going to sleep. Understanding his concern, his mother said, “You don’t need to go and lie down after you change your dress. You can practise for 10 more minutes after that.” Hari immediately put away the keyboard and went to change his dress.
As children get older, they start developing choices of their own and are reluctant to follow what parents tell them. Be it going to bed, eating a particular dish, choosing a dress to wear to the party, fixing the time for studies and so on, children want to have their say in everything that concerns them. A lot of parents feel angry and frustrated by their child’s intransigence and throw up their hands in despair.
If you are also a parent who is unable to make your child agree to what you want him to do, think again. Instead of forcing your child to do what you want him to, you can negotiate with him, give him options and make the entire process stress-free. Let us look at how we can negotiate with our children.
Why should parents negotiate?
The objective behind negotiating is to teach the child some very critical life skills. Some of the things that parents can teach their child through negotiations are:
- How to assess facts and take the right decision
- Settle differences in an amicable manner
- Respect and trust the choices parents offer
- Learn problem-solving skills
- Learn to give or understand reasons behind a decision
- Do his best to keep his end of the deal
Remember, negotiation is not about letting the child have his way or bribing him to do what you want him to.
How should parents negotiate with their children
- Choose words wisely: At no other time is the gift of eloquence more admired than during a negotiation. Phrase what you want your child to do in such a way that your options appeal to her. This will make her agree to your idea and accept it more readily.
- Be calm and give options: Appear relaxed and use a calm voice during the conversation. Also, give your child a range of options. For example, “If you don’t want to wear the blue dress, then why don’t you wear the green one or would you like to try out the black one?”
- Give reasons: When you want your child to do something and your child doesn’t want to do it, explain the reasons behind your wanting him to do it. Communicating your reason can change the way your child understands your words.
- Allow the child to present her case: Just as you present your case and explain your point, allow your child to do so as well. Then, select the option that works best for both of you, or discuss and come up with a new solution.
- Don’t give in to bad behaviour: During negotiations, some children try to create pressure by indulging in behaviours like throwing up a tantrum or being argumentative. Do not cave in and reward such behaviour. Stop the discussion and follow through with the consequences you may have set previously for indulging in bad behaviour.
- Allow the child to have his way occasionally: Do not think that allowing your child to have his way is about you losing the plot. Negotiation is not about winning or losing, it is about working out compromise. So, when you let your child have his way, tell him that next time, it will be you whose decision will prevail.
- Remember that you are the boss: Always remember that you are the parent and, therefore, are in a much better position to take a decision. So, it is perfectly fine even if you and your child don’t reach a conclusion, and you take the final decision.
While you put these techniques to test, also remember to use age-appropriate language and end your conversation on a positive note. If it seems like things are going to go out of hand or are turning bitter, take a break and come back after some time. Probably, you can never ever make the negotiating process perfect, but negotiating with your child can help build a stronger parent–child relationship and equip your child with a critical life skill.
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