When thinking about negotiations the first thing that pop into our minds may be a business deal. However, most negotiations happen right inside our homes with the toughest negotiators of all times, our children. From taking naps to baths, and turning off screens to eating broccoli we negotiate with kids throughout the day. On good days these discussions may end with a bribe of candy. On bad days though it may well escalate to tears, tantrums and the infamous declaration “because I’m the adult and I said so!”. We asked Nina Uusitalo, Neuropsychologist and guest speaker at Fun Learning Educator Training, if there is an effective tactic to negotiate with children. Here are the 3 tips she gave us.
1. Prepare the right environment
Setting up the environment with suitable conditions is key to getting a head start in these negotiations. If for instance bedtime is approaching it’s really important to turn off the screens, keep down the noise levels and create a calm atmosphere. Furthermore, if you are trying to eat healthy during weekdays, it’s helpful to not have the smell of freshly baked cookies wafting through the house. Be consistent and if possible have everyone in the family join in and follow the same rituals together. After some time and effort, all these menial tasks which once required extensive bargaining will soon become natural habits for your child.
2. Explain why
We all remember the phase when our little ones learnt the word “why” and how it suddenly became the answer to all and any requests we made. As exasperating as it seems explaining to a child why she has to do or not do something is critical. First and foremost, this is a key part of children’s learning and development. They make sense of the world by questioning everything around them and understanding why things work or are done in a particular way. Secondly, this shows them that they are respected as individuals, their opinions are valued and their feelings matter. This step may involve having the same lengthy discussion every time you strap your little one to the child safety seat of your car. Just remember by explaining ‘why’, you are not only beginning to effectively negotiate with children, but also helping them to answer these questions by themselves in the future.
3. Prepare yourself for their reactions
Little kids can resort to crying or outbursts of temper to get things their way. Thereafter, at the first sign of tears, all wisdom we have on how to negotiate with kids often go out the window. For many of us the most dreaded part about keeping up house rules is having to be the bad cop. Saying “no” to ice cream before dinner or a gory film may be more difficult than it seems. Naturally we want children to be happy and enjoy themselves all the time. However, we are also responsible for their overall wellbeing, as well as their happiness. Thus, before guiding little kids to make smart choices we need to gear up for their reactions.
Every child is unique and we all have our own ways of guiding them through life. Use these 3 simple steps to make everyday negotiations with kids more smooth and effective.
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