Negotiation Tactics can be a Foe or Friend

parent and child holding hands representing negotiation tactics between parents and children


Negotiation can be a great skill

Negotiation can be a great skill for children and adults in life! We all have opinions and desires, and it’s okay to communicate them. As adults we are able to voice our opinions or desires and negotiate for what we want and need! The key is to teach your child when, where, and in what context negotiation is and is not acceptable!

As adults, most of us know when we can negotiate and when we can’t negotiate! Similarly, if we teach our children the correct time and place for negotiations, they will develop this skill at an early age.

When a parent contacts us and non-stop negotiation is an area of concern, we often see that it is unclear to the child when negotiation is and is not available.

Negotiations can be very sophisticated and catch us off guard with our children, leaving us to say “what just happened, I just got played by a 3-year old!”

From a young age, children may learn to negotiate.

Do you think it is “cute” when your young child negotiates with you? It might be “cute” to hear a two-year old try to negotiate or bargain, but it won’t be so cute as they get older.

Given two choices, your child should pick one of the two. If s/he frequently suggests or demands another option, s/he is learning to negotiate! If there are more options available, don’t offer a choice between just 2! Keep it open-ended. Instead of asking your child if she wants to play dolls or color, and then agreeing to paint instead, ask her, “What do you want to play with?”

Offering a choice to your child is a parenting tool that allows you to place boundaries on your child’s behavior while giving him/her a bit of autonomy.

Talking teaches your child the door is open to negotiation

When you keep talking about the demand/denial/silly behavior, you’re teaching your child that you will keep talking and open the door to negotiation. Your child may be thinking, “the possibility of mom changing her mind still exists because she is still talking about it!”. Coupled with the fact that you likely did change your mind in the past, your child’s motivation to continue negotiating has been reinforced.

As communication develops there is even more room for negotiations! As children develop, they will start to ask for more sophisticated items and when their requests are delayed or denied, they may continue to keep asking or display other unwanted behavior.

Continuing to talk about the situation will only prolong it. For example, your child has asked for ice cream and you have told him he can have it after dinner, then continues to ask. “But mom, I really want ice cream” to which you respond, “Remember, I already told you 3 times.” In this example, you are maintaining the negotiation, as well as continuing to remind the child of the denial and what they are missing out on. Instead, use a consistent one liner such as “I’m done talking about it”, or “It’s not up for negotiation.” Then, STOP the conversation about it and instead redirect and take your attention to something different that is available or talk about another topic.

If you have a child that persists, you may require additional “baby steps” or prerequisite skills before you can actually stop the conversation or one-liner. If this is the case, we highly recommend scheduling a introductory, phone consultation to discuss what those baby steps may look like for your child. CLICK HERE to schedule your phone consultation.

Sophisticated negotiations

Have you ever found yourself feeling the conversation going “downhill?” Have you ever felt that both your child’s and your switch is dimming as the conversation continues? Maybe you find yourself looking back and asking yourself, “What just happened?” If so, you may have experienced a sophisticated negotiation from your child!

Simply continuing to talk about a topic or item can maintain negotiations. Your child needs a “partner” in order to continue to negotiate. When a parent effectively ends a negotiation, a child may pull out a “new tool” to continue negotiations. Children may learn to change the topic again. When the parent engages, that also turns into a new topic for negotiation. It can be a vicious cycle without a plan to disrupt it!

Tolerates denials as a prerequisite to resolving unwanted negotiations

Aside from the negotiation, does your child display other unwanted behaviors when denied his/her requests? Tantrum? Whine? Go take the thing anyway when no one is looking? The more important skill to teach may be how to tolerate when s/he is told “no”! Or how to tolerate when things don’t go his/her way. Not sure how to teach that? Schedule your introductory, assessment phone consultation today! 

I reserve the right to change my mind!

You are allowed to change your mind, as is your child, but make this clear to your child. S/he should have a clear expectations about when it’s an unwanted negotiation vs when it’s allowing changes and flexibility. Choose what you are okay with letting your child negotiate and what not’s up for negotiation!

When change or choices are an option, help your child understand the expectation. Let him/her know s/he can negotiate in certain situations. Use the phrase “we CAN negotiate that” or “Sure, you can choose this time”. Those phrases will help to give clear boundaries and expectations. Make sure to do this following desired behaviors when his/her switch is on, not following unwanted behaviors.

I often save my “mind changes” for when my kiddos have demonstrated something unbelievably fantastic with their tolerance of me delaying or denying their request. This is capitalizing on their natural motivation. You tell your child that she cannot have something, and she calmly accepts that response and moves on to another activity without extra support from you. You might approach after a short time and surprise her with a change of your mind and honor the request that was previously delayed or denied.

To our future salespersons, attorneys, and police trained in crisis negotiation!????

My Best,
Alicia Janni, BS, BCABA

The material contained herein is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to create or constitute a behavioral consultation relationship between Behave Your Best, LLC and the reader. The information contained herein is not offered as behavioral consultation and should not be construed as behavioral consultation.