Let's Make a Deal
Adults know that negotiation is an important skill for the workplace. Developing the ability to negotiate starts long before one begins the job hunt. The successful negotiator will bet what he or she wants, without taking undue advantage of the other negotiator.
Children are natural negotiators. All too often, parents and teachers miss this strength, and assign words like manipulation or threatening to such behaviors. This is understandable, since children are not subtle or skillful in their first attempts to negotiate. Learning "quid pro quo" with parents can translate into effective bargaining skills that help youth get what they want in life.
Parents are responsible for setting the boundaries of the negotiating process, such as "no disrespectful behaviors" during the negotiation process. Another effective boundary is to define age appropriate "safe" boundaries for what may be negotiated. For example, a child who would like money to buy a 1 pound bar of chocolate may need to be contained within the boundary of a "safe" size of candy bar and tantrums will not result in successful acquisition of the desired result. What IS a great topic for the negotiation process is what current or future behavior the child is willing to "spend" in order to achieve the desired object or permission. Once your child recognizes that you are a reliable negotiator, they will begin to understand the boundaries of your permissions, and will come to the negotiating table with their recommended "counter-offers" already in place, such as offering to do extra chores, or foregoing another privilege in exchange for the special permission or event.
Today I will interrupt myself when I interpret my child’s ungraceful attempts to negotiate as a negative. I will try to see whining, threatening, and tantrum behaviors as clumsy efforts to achieve their desires. I will suggest to my child an alternate, acceptable contribution they can make in the negotiation process, helping them prepare for real-world opportunities for negotiation.