Teach Your Kids Negotiation vs Manipulation
Manipulation…It can begin at an early age. Babies realize that crying gets attention, young kids learn that begging gets them what they want, and as they get older, they learn about guilt trips and other manipulative behaviors. As a parent, your job is to teach your kid that there is greater benefit to negotiating rather than manipulating.
In a previous article, How to Use Negotiation Skills with Your Kids, I shared some hints for successful negotiations, one of which was:
Be prepared to walk away. Sometimes you may feel it’s impossible to help your kids reach an agreement (although they may be very able, they are not willing). In any successful negotiation, it is important to be able to walk away. You could say calmly, “We can negotiate and meet some of your needs, or IF you choose not to participate appropriately, we can end this discussion right now. “I’ll walk away and you’ll get nothing.” Simplify the language for younger kids. You should offer this option only after you have made several attempts to help/guide your kid through appropriate negotiations.
This is Sue’s Story:
Sue was only seven years old when I met her and her family. I was providing parent training for her mon, Mary. Mary and I were focusing on building her negotiating skills. Sue was a very clever and argumentative girl who knew how to manipulate her mom. After a few sessions, her mom had established a set of new rules (she called them “policies”) at home, and Sue was busy testing them on a daily basis.
One day, Sue went to her mom and demanded that she should start giving Sue a weekly allowance because all her friends were getting allowances. Mary listened to Sue’s demand and validated her feelings by saying, “You feel you should get an allowance because you think everyone you know is getting one, too.” Then she calmly added, “We can discuss it, if you first find a much more polite way of asking for this privilege.” Then she gave Sue some time to re-approach the subject on her own.
When Sue had a hard time figuring out what her Mom wanted, Mary suggested, “Sue, you want me to give you an allowance. An allowance is a privilege, not a right. You already know what that means. How can you ask me more politely for what you want? Mary had already done a good job of explaining the difference between rights and privileges, and Sue was good at telling them apart.
Sue re-approached her Mom and asked, “Mom, may I have an allowance, please? I want five dollars a week please, just like Angie is getting.” Angie was Sue’s friend, classmate and neighbor.
Mary had some facts Sue didn’t know about. For one, Sue was not going to get a weekly allowance because it was not in the budget. Also, there was no need for it because Sue was only seven years old; she got what she needed and occasionally received all she wanted from her Mom. Also, Sue’s friend, Angie, got an allowance because that was the only way her dad (divorced from her mom and living in a different state) was able to give her a little something weekly. Angie had to save her “allowance” to put toward clothes for school. Sue, on the other hand, got new clothes for school frequently.
When Sue approached her mom with a more politely worded request, Mary told her, “I love the way you asked so nicely. I clearly understand what you want. I hear that you want an allowance. It sounds fair to you. You have two choices:
One: From now on, you can get an allowance of only five dollars for all clothes you need for school. I won’t buy them for you. That means we won’t go shopping today as planned.
Two: You can continue to ask for what you need. I’ll budget it for you and buy what you need for school any time, as we have been doing.
Sue thought about it for a bit. She asked some questions from her mom. Mary took her time and calmly and respectfully answered all Sue’s questions.
Sue decided it would be better for her if she didn’t get an allowance. She felt respected, heard, and, with her Mom’s help, understood that she was getting a better deal than her friend Angie, after all. Mary had faith in her daughter and hoped she would make the right choice. If Sue had decided to choose the first option, Mary would have been willing to let her try it. Eventually, Sue would have realized that her mom’s original strategy was best for them both. Mary trusted the process, showed her daughter the respect she deserved, and would have accepted her choice, no matter what.
As a parent strategist, Dr. Sherkat has many tools she can share with you to help strengthen your parenting skills.
She speaks to various groups…you can hire her for your next parenting workshop, conference or parenting event.