As parents, you have said these words a million times.
“Put the video game away and complete your homework”
“Shut the computer and go and play”
You have also heard the responses.
“I’ll do it tomorrow”
“Just ten more minutes”
Life with teens is an ongoing negotiation; be it about sleeping on time, studying, watching TV, or spending time on the computer. The word, negotiating, sounds like a ‘bad’ word. Should you be negotiating with our teens at all? But whether you like it or not, we are all doing it.
Negotiating with children is a challenging process and when not done right leads to unhappiness and frustration. As parents, you may feel you gave in too early while your children may feel they had no say in the matter. Whatever the outcome, someone is always unhappy. So, how can you negotiate more successfully with your teens?
Let’s look at some of the negotiating skills we use at work to resolve issues and see how you can translate these into helping you negotiate with your children at home. At work we usually proceed with a plan that involves initiating a discussion, identifying the problem at hand, discussing possible solutions and listing them down, analyzing all the solutions to narrow down on one, implementing the solution, and reviewing at a later date to assess its effectiveness and tweaking the solution, if required.
These things come naturally to us when we are at work. Now it’s the time to take this home!
- Initiate a discussion: Get together in a room with your teen and initiate a discussion on the issue at hand. You could start the discussion with something like, “So, here’s a situation. Let’s figure out how we should resolve it.” By not accusing the child of having a problem, you are avoiding a situation where the child might get defensive right at the start. The problem / issue is not with the child – its an issue you are dealing with together.
- Identify the problem clearly: It’s important to state the problem clearly. If the problem is that the child is watching TV for three hours every day then say it. But at the same time, remember not to club issues together. For example, you may say, “You are playing too many video games and that’s why you are not getting good grades.” If that’s actually the case, then state it but if playing video games is either not clearly the reason for low grades or not the only reason for low grades, then don’t link the two. Be specific to the problem at hand.
- Write down everyone’s ideas: Make a list of all the ideas proposed during the discussion. Remember not to reject or criticize any idea, however bizarre it may sound. While sharing ideas listen to your child’s point of view – it’s a valid point of view
- Discuss all ideas and narrow down to a solution: Once all the ideas are on the table, you can start to narrow down to a solution. With consensus, delete, add, or club ideas to identify a few possible solutions. It may not always be possible to narrow down to one solution but through discussion, everyone can be persuaded to try out a solution to start with.
- Assign responsibilities: Once the solution is decided, it is important to run through how it will be implemented so that everyone knows what they are supposed to do.
- Propose a review of the solution: Propose a review date for the solution to see how well it is working. This gives you an option to revisit the solution and if it is not working, you can suggest some changes to make it more effective.
Here is what this approach does..
It targets the problem and not the persons involved; parents or children. This prevents any resentment from brewing between the two.
- It derives solutions through consensus, making the teen feel involved in the decision-making process. This makes it more likely to succeed.
- The ideation and open discussion helps build trust between parents and children.
- Also, it trains them in resolving issues amicably in life!
So, next time you negotiate with your teen, remember that negotiating is not about winning or losing. It is about exploring options objectively and creating a win – win for all.
By Manvi Gupta – The author heads the Parenting Console at Parwarish and is the Founding Member of the company.