Negotiating with kids can result in a win-win situation.
Negotiations are part and parcel of the corporate world. A good discussion results in a win-win situation, an understanding that is mutually beneficial as it is binding. The benefits of bargaining can actually go beyond the boardroom, as something that can get moms and kids on the same page when it comes to things such as new purchases, homework and TV time.
Ros Fajardo, mom to 9-year old Russ, put this into practice when they drew up a list of daily activities for the boy to follow during the school year. “We agreed that there will be no gadgets from Monday to Thursday. But, if he finishes his homework and [worksheets] before bedtime, he can have 30 minutes of playtime. I wanted to impress on him that time well managed means more time for play,” explains the key accounts manager.
She admits having an ulterior motive in asking for Russ’ help with the timetable. “Actually, there was no consensus really in the beginning. I just presented it so he’d buy into it. In my ranking of important activities, I prioritize academic performance, so I needed to put in place blocks of time per activity,” she shares.
Russ balked at the negotiation stage, grumbling about the chunk of time set aside for studying, but Ros held her ground. “Although a child may resent the [schedule], take away the routine and he’ll feel lost and out of his element. At this point of the negotiation, consistency is key. As a parent, you need to build your credibility,” she says. Her bottom line, more than getting high marks in school, was teaching a value. “I wanted to teach him, ‘Don’t expect life to be easy, so better be ready for it. Hard work will get you place. You cannot feel entitled to everything.”
What to haggle on
Opening the floor for discussion is encouraged by Winston Jerome Luna, vice president for academic affairs at St. Jerome School in Novaliches and St. Jerome Science Montessori in Caloocan, Philippines. “Involving kids [in] decision making [for] certain things that concern them gives them the ability to freely express and communicate their issues, feelings and dilemmas to the parent. In the long run, this open line of communication will serve as a solid foundation in the relationship between parent and child,” he says.
There are certain things that Winston says are non-negotiable: anything that concerns rules of law or health and safety are definitely off the table. “Leisure and rewards can be negotiated,” he adds, further stating that negotiable points include those that promote growth, challenge kids to be better people, make them productive and give them the energy for excellence.
Winston gives his own thoughts about creating a winning resolution when negotiating with a school-going child: “A win-win situation is a state where both parties are happy and agreeable. This can be achieved by setting the platform ahead of time. Kids should understand clearly what is [or isn’t] negotiable ... Kids will understand and accept decisions that are non-negotiable and they would know as well when to ask for more or disagree on things.”
The bottom line is yours
Establishing open communication and boundaries at the same time can create a win-win setup. Maridel Saguil-Regala imprinted this fact early in her 4 children. “Even when they were toddlers, I would explain why I was doing certain things, like, I would put them on an elevated surface while I mopped the floors to make it clean enough for them to play on. I also told them that if they moved around too much, they will fall and hurt themselves,” she shares. This was her way of making them understand that what she does always has a reason – primarily, it’s to look out for them.
As they grew older, she says this openness has helped her set the tone for their discussions. She says, “If my 13-year old, for example, wants to go to the mall with her friends, and there are chores that need to be done in the house, she understands why those chores should come first.” Early training is important, because kids today have become experts at wheedling and cajoling, courtesy of what they see on TV. Parents have to listen to reason, but must stand firm on decisions, or else the kids will walk all over them.
Winston underscores the value of teaching kids to operate within some form of family democracy. “Negotiation plays an important role in life. The best negotiators are often the one who can get the best in any of their endeavours. If parents practice this at home, kids will have a bigger chance to succeed, since they’re trained to analyze and give their input at a young age. Training them in this aspect allows them to practice critical thinking and expand their understanding and reasoning abilities,” he explains.
Dialogues are now taking place in modern parenting, where kids can express their views, and parents allow for negotiations – but still have the final say. Think of it as training your kids to deal with conflict resolution with an open mind and diplomacy.