It’s almost 6 p.m. on Thursday evening and I’m yelling at my kids. I’m trying to convince them to stop fighting with each other and put some nutrition into their growing bodies before we have to hustle out the door to my son’s baseball practice. I’ve tried asking nicely 5 times and I was ignored. My husband asked nicely 20 times and he was ignored. And now I’m yelling. And it works. My kids are shaken enough to temporarily stop fighting and a couple of bites make it into their mouths.
But I don’t feel good. I don’t like to be the mom that yells. I like to be the mom that speaks to her kids with love in a nice. soothing. calm. voice.
Fast forward to 8:30 p.m. when my three angels are tucked into bed, and I’m reflecting on what the heck I could have done differently during dinner. I could have held off on the yelling and negotiated instead.
Yes, I said it. I could have negotiated and had better results without having to yell. Something I’ve been working on in my Mom Skills Box is doing more negotiating with my crew so I can yell at them less. I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t eliminated all yelling. Sometimes I forget all about my negotiating skills and go straight to my yelling skills. Other times my kids just aren’t receptive to my negotiation tactics. There are plenty of times that a 2 or 3 year old just isn’t hearing anyone’s negotiations skills. More and more often though, I’ve been challenging myself and finding success with my kids…sans yelling.
Here are some negotiating best practices that I’ve been using more and more with my littles:
1. Good negotiators empathize with the other party. I put myself in their shoes. I may be thinking of the 27 things we need to be doing at any given moment, but do they understand that we need to quickly eat our supper so that we can be in the car exactly 7 minutes from now…after we pick up the table, put away our leftover food, start the dishwasher, swap the laundry, pick up the toys, go potty, change a diaper, get our shoes and jackets on, load up the stroller…oh, and don’t forget the baseball gear?! No, they don’t understand that. Heck, I don’t even really understand all of that. From their perspective, they may or may not be hungry and are more interested in getting a rise out of their brother or sister. Because they can. They have no concept of time let alone all of the things on my checklist for any given moment. Of course when I’m trying to hustle them through their meal and out the door they freak out. When I put myself in their shoes and look at life through their eyes, I get it.
2. Good negotiators set emotions aside. I recognize my emotions, their emotions, and approach the situation logically in spite of those. Sure, it’s tough to separate my stress level from the interaction…sure, it’s tough for me to look past their flailing arms and legs and try to talk logic. But you know what, sometimes it works!
3. Smart negotiators admit their faults and shortcomings. I “own” my part of the conflict. “I understand you want to eat slowly. Mommy needs for you to eat more quickly because I didn’t have dinner ready early enough for us to eat slowly. I took too long to cook dinner and now I need your help to hurry up.” Owning my part shows the kids that it’s ok to own behaviors and consequences, which often leads to their willingness to own theirs when I’m asking them to.
4. Negotiators working toward win/win solutions work toward common goals. There’s no “I” in “Team.” I talk about “us” by sharing what “we” need to do to meet our goals. This is one of the toughest behavior changes for me. When I’m in the middle of trying to move my kids toward a goal, I tend to take on all responsibility. “I can’t hold you right now because I have to cook dinner, do the dishes, and set the table.” I’ve been actively changing my thinking and language to focus on our family as a team. “Would you like to cook dinner with me? Can you please help by putting away the dishes? Let’s set the table so that we can eat our supper.”
5. Great negotiators keep an open mind. I try not to approach my kids from an “I’m right and you’re wrong” position. This is also a tough skill to exercise as a mom, but as they get older I continue to find more opportunities to use this approach. Why? Because what happens when I say I’m right and you’re wrong? They get stubborn! They tantrum. They stop listening. Truly keeping an open mind makes it more possible to come up with win/win solutions for myself and my kids that we can all live with. By listening to where my kids are coming from, to what their wants and needs are, asking them questions, sharing my wants, needs and the why behind them, we often come up with a win/win solution that all of us can live with.
6. Good negotiators explain the “why.” Explaining the why behind our rules, decisions, and parenting philosophies helps our kids understand the reasoning behind why we ask them to do things. The extra time taken here pays off in spades as they learn how to make good decisions and choices based off the logic. “We aren’t telling you to stay out of the street because we are trying to make you mad. We are telling you not to play in the street because the street is for cars to drive on. Cars are very big and very heavy. Drivers of cars won’t always see people in the street. People who get run over by cars get hurt very badly and in some cases even die. We have a nice yard for you to play in and it is very safe. Please play in the yard and not in the street.”
7. Great negotiators are aware of their body language.
All of the best negotiation efforts can be fruitless if your body language is hostile. My kids are least receptive when I’m looking at my phone, frowning, or far away from them. My kids are most responsive when I am making eye contact, giving them undivided attention, as close to eye level as possible, and even better if I can throw an arm around their shoulders or sit them on my lap.
Wish me luck with continuing to practice my Mom – Chief Negotiator skills! I hope some of these tips come in handy for you.
What negotiating tips work the best with your kids?! I’m always on the lookout for new skills! Cheers to all of us having to yell a little less often!
If you liked this article, you may also enjoy my personal blog, www.thisblessedadventure.com.
I am not claiming to be an expert in any one topic. I am simply sharing my thoughts and opinions that are mine and not anyone else’s. Feel free to agree or disagree accordingly! Thanks for reading.