What Parents Need To Know About Negotiating

Sometimes the toughest negotiations happen at home
Sometimes the toughest negotiations happen at home
Image Credit: More Good Foundation

When we think about negotiating, we often picture it happening in a business setting. On the table before us are things such a prices, delivery dates, and quantities. However, it turns out that we use our principled negotiation styles and negotiating techniques all the time and not always at work. As parents, we spend a great deal of time negotiating with one tough customer: our children. This type of negotiating requires special techniques in order to get the outcome that we want.

You Need To Distinguish What You Want

When we enter into a negotiation with our children, we need to understand that there are a number of things that actually are very similar to what goes on in a business negotiation. One of the most important things is that we need to make sure that prior to starting the negotiation that we fully understand is what is really important to us.

Sure, there are a lot of different things that we probably want our children to do (“don’t wear those clothes outside!”). However, what we need to keep in mind is that the things that we want can be separated into two groups. The first group is nonnegotiable items and the second group we can negotiate on. The reason that the first group is nonnegotiable is often because the health and safety of our children is involved (don’t use drugs, don’t drive drunk, be nice to others, etc.). However, we need to understand that everything else is up for negotiation.

Get Rid Of The Peer Group

When we are negotiating with children, one of the most important things that we need to keep in mind is that we are not just negotiating with the people that we can see in the room. Their peer group and their standing in that group can play a key role in how they approach the negotiations. This is not all that different from when in a business negotiations the people that we are actually talking with are simply expressing someone else’s opinions.

In order to successfully negotiate with your children, you are going to have to clearly establish that you will only negotiate with them and not their friends. The phrase “but everyone else is doing it” must be banned from the negotiations. All that matters is what you are going to be willing to negotiate with your children. What their peers have been able to negotiate with their parents may be interesting, but should play no role in your negotiations.

Always Get Timely Information

When you are negotiating with children, one of the most important things that you need to keep in mind is that things can change. In fact, things can change during the negotiations. If you child wants to go to a concert, just exactly who is going with them and how everyone is going to get there may be very fluid. You need to make sure that you are always getting timely information.

Early on in the negotiations you need to establish ground rules that state that you’ll be informed when things change. Without this knowledge, you can’t hope to negotiate an agreement that you’ll both be able to live with. If things change and you are not aware of the changes, then the agreement that you’ll reach with your children will be moot the moment both of you agree to it.

What All Of This Means For You

The world of business requires constant negotiating in order to arrange for the purchase and delivery of goods. Although this can take up a lot of our time, there is another type of negotiating that can take up just as much of our time. Our children often want to do or get things that will require negotiating with us and we need to be ready for these types of negotiations also.

One of the most important things for parents to realize is that when they are negotiating with their children, not all items are the same. Instead, there are two groups: non-negotiable and negotiable. You can’t yield on the non-negotiable; however, everything else is up for grabs. Peer groups play an important role in our children’s lives but we need to take steps to make sure that they don’t play a role in our negotiations with them. Information is key to reaching an agreement with your children and so they need to keep you informed if things change during the course of the negotiations.

The good news is that parents have been negotiating with their children since the beginning of time. What we need to realize is that the skills that we’ve developed in order to negotiate in the workplace can be used when we negotiate with our children. Take the time to use these tips and you’ll discover that it may become easier to live with your children!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: If you decide that you really don’t want your children to do something, what negotiating steps should you take to talk them out of it?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When we are preparing to negotiate, we tend to focus on the things that we can see such as the negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that we’ll be using. However, it turns out that in order to be successful in a negotiation a great deal relies on what is going on inside of our heads as much as what is happening at the bargaining table. How can we master our thoughts in order to be successful negotiators?