Negotiating with Your Kids – Part Two

So what advice can I offer in negotiating with your young children?  Here is one classic negotiation tip: consider the other side’s interests.  In any negotiation, your counterpart may demand something that you can’t or don’t want to agree to.  But underlying the demand is an often unstated need or desire – their interest.  A skillful negotiator always seeks to understand the other side’s underlying interests, because if you can find a way to meet those interests, the demand often goes away.

Here is an example applying this advice to the parenting context, taken from bath time with my son when he was four years old:

Me: It’s time to get out of the bath.
My son: Not yet!
Me: You are going to get cold.
My son: Not yet.
Me: It’s time to get out.
My son: Not yet.

One way to handle this is to pull rank and just lift the child out. But that creates a real power struggle. If you consider the child’s interests, they include maintaining control over when to exit the bath.  Keep that in mind, and a different dialogue can take place:

Me: It’s time to get out of the bath.
My son: Not yet.
Me: Okay.  In how many minutes would you like to get out of the bath?
My son: Five minutes.
Me: So in five minutes you will get out without complaining?
My son: Yes.
Me: Okay.

And in fact, when I tried this, my son did get out in five minutes (helped by the fact that he was getting cold :).

This specific technique probably doesn’t work at every age, but it did work when he was four, and for a simple reason: his main interest was in control.  Getting out was not the issue for him; deciding when to get out was.  And by giving him that control, I satisfied his interest, and he in turn did something that satisfied mine.

What techniques have you used in negotiating with your kids?