Negotiating with kids can at times feel more challenging than executing high-stakes deals at the office. In family negotiations, emotions can be more intense. This is even more true when conflicts arise among family members. The temptation to give your kids everything they ask for can also be overpowering when dealing with high emotions.
Yet without negotiations, the outcomes can lead to undesirable long-term behaviors. Parents could do well using the following negotiation tips to resolve family conflicts.
Create an Open Environment
With so many external stresses and a barrage of electronic stimuli, it’s easy to be impatient and insensitive with others at home. Yet, one of the best ways to avoid and resolve conflicts is to keep dialogue open and free of judgment.
Let your kids feel their home is an environment that protects their emotional and physical safety. One thing professional negotiators learn from an online negotiation course is to set the right mood before engaging in debates. This advice translates to family life as much as in the business world. Avoid tensions and actions that your kids may translate as favoritism. Let house rules apply to everyone uniformly.
According to studies by the Michigan State University, children learn how to behave and treat others by observing their parents. The examples you set have a great impact on whether kids will trust family negotiations and stick to agreements.
In most cases, when we treat kids with respect, kids learn to treat themselves and others respectfully. In resolving family conflicts, avoid common habits like use of demeaning language, scolding facial expressions, and withholding affection.
Finding ingenious ways to get what they want and avoid what they don’t want can often be a kid’s way of exerting influence. Tantrums, guilt trips, and playing one parent against the other are some of the tricks you’ll likely come across. Recognize that how parents and kids use these emotions can be a force for good if used properly.
Don’t use emotionally manipulative tactics to get your way. Your kids might learn to use the same behaviors, and soon you might find yourself on the receiving end of the same tactics. Instead, learn to use emotions to arrive at win-win agreements.
One way to harness emotions is to teach kids to calm down before they react to a situation. Engage your kids with home-taught courses on communication and controlling emotions. For example, say child A grabs a toy from child B’s hands. B’s instinct might be to grab the toy back, start whining, or engage in a physical fight.
To rectify this behavior, you could teach the child to take five deep breaths before stating how the other’s actions made them feel. So instead of “bring back my toy right now or else,” child B could say, “I feel upset when you grab my toys like that.”
Negotiate Rules of Engagement
Negotiating with kids often involves lots of repetition. You may find yourself having the same conversation at dinnertime, homework time, bath time, and bedtime. Done right, you can work together to set up some basic rules and avoid too much carry-over from one situation to the next.
For example, you can set a rule that kids can only negotiate for more screen time or online access if they have completed their school or course assignments. Rules work best when you involve kids in setting the terms. So engage your children to find the best compromises and incentives.
As a parent, you may feel you know what’s best for your kids. So, it’s easy to try to solve kids’ problems by telling them what to do to fix them. Yet kids become better problem solvers when they learn to resolve conflicts on their own. So the next time a conflict arises, bring your kids together for a brainstorming session.
You can use visual aids such as a blank sheet of paper with colored pens. Ask each child to describe what happened from start to end. Allow each child to add their point of view even if it’s different from the other’s perspective.
Then ask each to pick a color, and write down three possible solutions to the problem. Next, ask each child to look at the other’s solutions and pick one which may work for them too.
The exercise may take many tries, especially for younger kids. Though difficult, once they get the hang of it, kids learn how to find common ground and to collaborate for win-win solutions. A study published online by the US National Institutes of Health asserts that kids can learn empathy and consensus-building by looking at struggles from each other’s perspectives.
It’s natural for kids to try to get what they want at all costs. So over time, your kids may almost instinctively know the buttons to push to drive you insane. Train your kids to express themselves without fear or intimidation. Don’t just lay down the law. Instead, allow your kids to find common ground and negotiate for win-win agreements.