Google+ Authentic Parenting: The Art of Negotiation

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Art of Negotiation

Negotiation is an important skill in business, with millions of books written on the topic. But in parenting, it is often neglected.
With a headstrong three year old in my house, and a lot on my plate, I'm finding that negotiation is a life saver. And we're both learning so much from it!
As soon as she was verbal, I started applying negotiation as a parenting tool. At the start, it was very basic: instead of using controlling language, I would give her options.

Example: We are going to the restaurant, what do you want to wear? A dress or pants? Come with me to your room and pick something out.

Negotiation tactics mind map - Jean Louis Zimmerman
It's important to offer real options, and not just: pick one from these two. We have very often ended up at the restaurant with a dress and track shoes and no underwear. Or pants and a hat but no T-shirt. The point of negotiation is to achieve a situation all parties can live with, and that means that everyone gives in.

Now at three, my daughter really grasps the concept of negotiation, and often, she will come to me when we are in conflict and suggest to make an agreement.

I really like this tool, because it is a real life skill, and we're both learning. And this way, neither of us gets to feel like we're just folding for the other all the time. We get to make deals and revise our positions. I like that she gets that you can look at a problem from different sides and find a solution, and most often, one that suits everyone.
Sadly, since most views on parenting are that of a top-down situation, negotiation is often not on the menu, turning kids into the same inflexible people there parents were when raising them.

Little side note: I'm talking about negotiation, not manipulation ;)



  1. Definitely what I need now for wardrobe conflicts! I am going to refer to your post today in a post about the toddler and her preference for "princess" clothes!

  2. Ooh negocating with your child is viewed as real bad here in France. Your child has to know who is in charge, so if you, as a parent, start to negociate with your child, you have already lost the battle. Explaining, allowing choices, negociating are "wrong" and "bad". Pfff.

    And I really agree with you : negociating is a valuable tool, through all the ages of life.


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