Dear LA Teacher,
Last night, while putting my 4-year-old to bed, he starts negotiating. “Four more stories and I’ll go to bed,” he says.
“Two more,” I say.
“Three is my final offer,” he counters.
I can’t help myself. I laugh. Then I read Jon three more stories. Good for his word, my son went to sleep, leaving me wondering if I’m giving my parental power away by negotiating with my boy. Is negotiation a good thing to teach children?
Dear Concerned Father,
Teaching children to negotiate is an important job for parents. If you are the type of parent (authoritarian) who won’t permit your child to negotiate anything, your son may grow up to be overly submissive or disruptive. On the other hand, if you are overly permissive, your child won’t learn to negotiate because he gets everything he wants, anyway. Kids like rules. They want consistency in their environment with some flexibility to grow. Negotiation provides that flexibility. By instructing your child on the art of negotiation you are teaching your son to think for himself so when he becomes older he will be able to make big decisions on his own.
Negotiating stories to be read at bedtime is a wonderful way to begin to teach negotiation. By following through, you showed your son that you could be trusted.
There are a few situations where rules must prevail due to safety and health reasons. For example, buckling up before the driver leaves the garage is a must.
As a child becomes older, be more flexible with the rules. For example, if curfew is at 11:00, but your teen son plans on seeing a movie in Hollywood that won’t let out until 12:30, have him figure out how he’ll get home; a plan you can live with.
Your goal as a parent is to help your child figure out who he is and what he wants out of life. Helping children to negotiate teaches empathy and self-awareness skills; something they’ll need to become productive members of society.
Have a parenting issue? Ask LA Teacher at firstname.lastname@example.org.