Negotiations and your children: The best tool to resolve family conflicts

Negotiations and your children: The best tool to resolve family conflicts

haps Magazine Korea

Every year, parents have on average 2,000 arguments with their kids, and lose more than half according to a survey by the Mirror, Resolving challenging situations with your kids is never a walk in the park, regardless of how old they are.

Emotions often run high and tensions are rife, but in each conflict or circumstance, levels of negotiations are your best friend.

In this article, we’ll share some of the best tools to work through those difficult situations with your children.

Why is negotiating with kids difficult?

When you learn the art of negotiation, for instance, through simulations games from, you get a handle on how to win (or not to lose). However, these business transactions often involve adults who are better at controlling emotions.

In the home set-up, you usually deal with young children who have not yet developed the capacity to understand or control their emotions. Or they are at that stage where practicing their agency is actually a good thing.

As a result, they may use psychological tactics to bend your will so they can get away with what they want rather than do what you asked. Some common tactics include:

  • having meltdowns and throwing tantrums.
  • making threats and guilt-tripping.
  • promising to change their behavior when they have no intention of doing so.
  • playing parents against each other.
  • wearing you down with repetitive requests and whining.

It helps to identify these tactics to mitigate their effects so you can have productive negotiations with your children.

Should you negotiate with kids all the time

Some adults may feel that they shouldn’t negotiate with their kids because it may dilute their parental authority.

However, meaningful engagement with children through negotiation is often the best tool because it:

  • reduces frustration on both sides;
  • helps solve issues amicably;
  • prevents acting out by disgruntled kids.

Remember, there is a difference between negotiating and arguing. It’s important to set some ground rules to prevent the situation from escalating, for instance:

  • Both sides will remain respectful during the negotiation and not resort to underhand manipulation tactics such as tantrums.
  • Both sides are free to express emotions minus attitude or hostility.
  • No resorting to personal attacks.
  • No interrupting when the other person is talking.

That said, some battles are better off left alone, and some situations require a firm top-down approach—what you say goes. For instance, if the child’s safety is at risk, take immediate action and you can talk about the situation later.

Remember to avoid throwing the ineffective “because I said so” card. Instead, use the opportunity as a teachable moment. Explain how some decisions are made and why you have to follow this approach and then disengage from the discussions.

How to approach negotiations

Have a plan

Just like planning helps you stay on track in business negotiations, having a set agenda will prevent the talks from going off track.

Ask yourself:

  • What am I trying to achieve?
  • What will I do if we don’t reach an agreement at all?
  • What are my top priorities, what will I not even consider, and where am I willing to bend?


Ask your child to express their perspective. It’s important to be quiet when they respond and listen objectively.

Listening will help you figure out what your child wants or needs and their feelings about the situation.

When your child is done talking, it helps to paraphrase what they said, so you can be sure you’re on the same page.


When it’s your turn to speak, voice your concerns and explain what you would need in order to make a decision. For instance, if the issue is about going to a friend’s party, you may need to talk to the parents or chaperones to see if you are comfortable with your child going.

If you are still unsure, make it clear what else you need to find out. Also, clarify what part your child needs to play to get the information.

In addition, it’s important to brainstorm possible alternatives that will make the situation work for both of you.

Then decide on a course of action or postpone the issue until you are in a position to decide.

Consider the following scenario

Your child wants their best friend to sleepover on Friday night, but you are beyond tired, and all you want is to watch TV, and sleep in the following morning.

You give your child the chance to talk and listen to how excited they are and how they’ve been planning the sleepover all week.

You respond by explaining how you understand the situation but are worried because the two of them tend to get loud and messy, stay up late, and constantly need to eat, which will make it harder for you to rest.

Then brainstorm and negotiate possible solutions, for instance:

  • What about Saturday night instead?
  • Can you order them dinner so you don’t have to cook or can they make do with the available snacks?
  • Can they plan their activities so they stay in their room the entire evening and keep their noise level down?

You settle for Saturday night. They will get pizza and drinks delivered and only come out of their room to use the bathroom under strict no-noise conditions. They are happy, and you get the chance to rest—it’s a win-win.

Real-life situations may not be as easy as the above scenario, especially with younger kids who still have a lot to learn about emotional regulation and reasoning. Still, the bottom line is to listen first, then respond, and finally brainstorm together to reach a solution that works for everyone.


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