Negotiation is a type of communication that helps us compromise, or arrive at an agreeable solution. Parent-teen negotiation helps parents and teens discuss negotiable issues in a systematic and collaborative way.
Children need to learn how to negotiate in order to be successful in the outside world. Most of this learning happens at home. Negotiation is also more effective at resolving disagreements than debating or arguing. Parents have a unique opportunity to model effective negotiation and make everyone’s lives easier by resolving negotiable issues. Successful negotiation can also strengthen parent-teen relationships, improve communication, and increase trust.
There are important aspects of family life and communication that will help make parent-teen negotiation more successful.
1. Home climate/parent-child relationship
By cultivating a nurturing and supportive home environment, you are laying the groundwork for effective negotiation. Negotiation works best within a secure, safe, and supportive home and relationship.
2. Basic communication skills
Communication is a two-way process: You may be interested in communicating, but for negotiation to work, your teen must be willing to engage as well! Rather than forcing communication, look for opportunities when they are ready to talk.
Use Active Listening: When given the opportunity to communicate, show your teen you are really listening. Try to summarize what was said. Reflect the emotion underlying the issue and the meaning it may have for your teen. Try not to jump straight into problem solving. This type of discussion will be more productive if your teen feels heard, so take their lead.
Express your concerns clearly and objectively: In a matter-of-fact way, state what the issue is, how it impacts you, and your concern for its impact on your teen. Avoid personalizing the issue (“You’re the only one who does this!”) or making character statements about your child (“Why are you so lazy?!”).
3. Goal of negotiations
The goal is not to get the child to agree with their parent or vice versa. If the parent and child largely disagree on an issue, it would be more helpful to focus on understanding each other’s perspectives first (vs. treating it as a “problem to be solved”). Additionally, the core of negotiation is compromise, so it may be helpful to have this expectation set prior to negotiating. Non-negotiable issues related to safety and overall health/well-being would not be appropriate for parent-teen negotiation (e.g., drug use, attending school).
It’s likely that you are already negotiating with your teen! The P.A.S.T.E. process below offers a helpful framework for optimizing your negotiations.
Ground Rules: A process like P.A.S.T.E. requires that the communication patterns between family members are respectful and sets the stage for negotiation. Here are some basic rules that are often helpful while doing a negotiation:
When will you introduce the P.A.S.T.E. process with your child/family? What will you say?
What types of problems should you and your child potentially negotiate about? Remember to have your child involved to generate this list. When you are done, rank these from most to least challenging.
Which problem will you focus on? What might success look like? Define both the problem and success clearly.
What are the alternative solutions? Be creative!
Which solution should you select? Consider pros and cons of each and identify one solution.
Try out your solution. Write this out as a detailed plan.
When will you decide on evaluating whether the plan worked and what needs to be revised?