How to Negotiate With Kids?

How to Negotiate With Kids?

by Dr. Meenakshy Varier on Jul 31 2020 3:45 PM
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  • Kids use a series of psychological tactics including charm, meltdown, threats, guilt trips, and promise for future behavior while negotiating
  • Strategically based decision-making will help resolve conflicts, and make negotiations easier
  • Interests, priorities and outcome of both parents and kids should be assessed, and solutions should be generated based on that
Negotiating with kids can occur daily, on an average of six times a day. People cannot apply the same tactics used at workplace, when it comes to negotiating with kids at home. Parents are often thrown off the tracks by their kid’s emotional needs, and lack of rationality. Their own demanding life can get them overwhelmed and exhausted. According to an informal survey of 2,000 parents, each negotiation can last form eight minutes to 24 hours.
“Why is it that people who can execute multi-million dollar deals, who can persuade colleagues of ideas or who can handle conversations about raises and promotions with ease, stumble in negotiations with their kids?” asks Terri Kurtzberg, a professor at Rutgers Business School–Newark and New Brunswick.

The co-author, Mary Kern, of ’Negotiating at Home: Essential Steps for Reaching Agreement with Your Kid’ says even though these interactions may require the same skill set, the dynamics applied at work will not easily cross the threshold into the home.

Researchers share a few tips for managing tough conversations with children while at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Understanding Why

The four major differences in negotiating with kids at home, compared to colleagues at work are:

Repetition. Repeated conversations at home will also elicit the same type of response from parents. Parents will not always understand whether it was a wisely chosen strategy or the right time that contributes to a successful negotiation outcome with kids. Hence it is not always possible to learn from past experiences.

Carry-over- At work, situations are usually independent and tend to have more definite starting and ending points. But at home, we do not have one negotiation but a series of linked negotiations that vary in magnitude across the day or even the decade.

Emotion- The majority of the problems at work get contained, or task-based as the relationship with colleagues are professional. Going home at the end of the day will also help to leave the problems behind. But, at home the freedom to express emotions is greater and can take over strategic decision-making when negotiating.

Multiple agendas The three levels of negotiations going on at home at the same time are about the specific issue at hand if there is a real solution available for it. If the decision will have a long-term effect and whether the relationship between the parent and child will be affected in the long run.

How Kids Manipulate

Kids use a series of psychological tactics, including charm, meltdown, threats, guilt trips, promise for future behavior, and playing one parent off the other to get what they want. They master the act of persuasion by learning the connection between what they do and whether they get what they want.

Kids can manipulate parents into thinking that it is their fault and thus back them into corners, among other things. They will try to wear their parents down, make them second-guess their decisions.

Through an understanding of biases such as the escalation of commitment, reactive devaluation, overconfidence, and anchoring, the science of decision-making can help to understand these tactics and mitigate their effects.

When to, and not to Negotiate

Choosing the right strategy for the right moment will help parents rather than engaging thoughtlessly. Some tasks might need to be strategically postponed while others need a firm decision. But a strategy-based approach might not work all the time, especially when kids are hungry. Sometimes, total disagreement is the right answer.

Kids should be explained as to how and why certain decisions get made. Addressing issues will also greatly increase compliance and goodwill. Cliched phrases like “Because I said so!”, will not have the same effect, kids will learn to tune it out.

The 3-Question Checklist for Negotiation

Negotiation reeds thorough preparation. At work, there may be ample time to think things through before acting out. But in the world of parenting, time is limited. Many negotiations erupt without notice and take parents by surprise.

Asking three questions from the parents' perspective, and then from the child's perspective will highlight the essential elements when negotiation happens. What am I trying to achieve, and what's my "why"? What will I do if we don't reach an agreement at all? What are my top priorities, and what are my deal-breakers?

Negotiations can be made easier by understanding these true motivations and parameter.