by Chris Taylor, MFT, Author “Back to Basics"
Does this sound familiar? “Because I am your parent and I said so!” The next statement would sound like this, “well I am still not doing it and you can’t make me.” Ultimately, this exchange ends with a behavioral escalation and then consequences. None of which results in the desired task being completed. This is a power struggle that has existed since teenagers where invented and parents feel helpless to change the trajectory of these interactions as they are making simple requests most of the time. So what is a parent to do?
Negotiation is a process to reach consensus in a compromise. Each party brings requests and concessions to the table in order to reach an agreement that is both mutually beneficial and palatable. When parents allow their teenagers to use negotiation they find a strategy that finally yields the desired results. If this technique is so simple, why do parents so often over look the tactic? The simple answer is fear. Fear that they are losing control and ultimately authority in their home. However logical this sounds, this fear is irrational as parents inherently posses the power in the relational dynamic.
So how do parents allow for negotiation? Simply start by asking the teen what they feel is a reasonable compromise. Let them know that if they don’t engage in the process then they default to letting parents decide. Teens will see the opening and take the bait. Allow negotiation for timing of task completion, scheduling activities, days that chores are done, etc. This all leads to the development of trust, more open communication and allows teens to practice independent living skills. I would be hard pressed to find a parent who did not think those where great outcomes.
When a teen goes overboard with their requests, then draw them back in with a counter offer and explain the rationale. ‘Sorry Mike, I just don’t feel comfortable extending your curfew to midnight, how bout we increase it from 10 to 10:30 and see how it goes?” Teens will take the small win if they are smart and if not they will default back to 10…. negotiation is over. Teach them over time how to use this strategy effectively and to their benefit. Allow them to advocate for their needs by connecting their requests to developmental stages and milestones, so they feel valued and encouraged to individuate. There is so much good that comes from negotiation, and if you are hesitant to implement and you ask me why you should. “Because I am the Teen Expert and I said so!”