Negotiating with Your Children

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Negotiating with your children may seem counterintuitive but parents can build stronger relationships with them by implementing a problem-solving approach when trying to resolve family conflicts.

In his book How to Negotiate with Kids…Even When You Think You Shouldn’t (Viking, 2003), Scott Brown, a founder of the Harvard Negotiation Project at Harvard Law School, outlines a framework for dealing with your children using the principles of negotiation.

According to Brown there are two broad negotiation categories that most parents fall into. “Hard Bargainers” are those parents who often go too far when setting rules and doling out punishments. Children of this type of parent tend to respond to this type of parenting by rebelling and withdrawing emotionally.

“Accommodators” are overly permissive parents who often inadvertently reward bad behavior by offering one concession after another. In this environment, children often fail to learn appropriate limits and how to respect the needs of others around them.

There is a third, much smaller, group of parents which Brown advocates for. These parents utilize collaborative negotiation techniques and develop relationship-centered goals with their children.

While some parents may fear that by negotiating with their children they are giving up some of their power, the opposite is true. Using negotiation techniques helps children feel empowered while also building trust and strengthening family ties.

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