Whenever there is a conflict or disagreement, the natural inclination of both parties is to fight for their way. Humans are wired to win. Our need for power must be satisfied somehow, and we learn very early how to power over other people to get what we want.
Negotiation is a behavior a person has to learn. Most people don’t have an aversion to the other person winning if they can win too. However, most of us are unfamiliar with a true win/win model and believe it involves compromise, meaning one or both people have to give up some of what they want. This still feels like losing.
When negotiating with your child for a solution where you both get what you need, obviously you both win, but the other big win is for your relationship. Your relationship is strengthened when you work together toward that common goal, while using “Connecting Relationship Habits” along the way. Usually in a negotiation with your child, you are attempting to meet your need for survival by ensuring your child’s safety. Your child, on the other hand, is generally not even considering survival. He or she is most interested in connection with friends, freedom to explore, freedom from parental restriction, and the power to be his or her own boss.
The way to begin this negotiation is to agree that you have something to negotiate. Admitting you have a conflict is the first step to resolving it.
The second step is to actually listen to each other’s position. Since you are the parent, you need to listen first. You want to be listening for understanding; you don’t have to agree, you just want to understand.
When your child feels sufficiently understood by you, it will be your turn to tell your child what you want. When you get your turn, try to keep your focus on the fact that it is your job as a parent to keep your children safe. It is very difficult for a child to fight against that concept. He or she may think you are doing too good a job at it and complain you are being overprotective, but your child will have a difficult time arguing it’s not your job to keep him or her safe.
Take some time with your child to develop your shared vision. Let him or her know what your concerns are and allow your child time to formulate and express his or her plan to manage each one. If your child doesn’t have a plan for avoiding the obstacles you are concerned about, then offer to help him or her reach a solution.
With Empowerment Parenting, you are trying to avoid your child engaging in unsafe behaviors behind your back. You may believe you have wonderful, obedient children who would never defy your wishes and that may be true. However, I know that if any of their needs go unmet for a long enough time, they will eventually try to find satisfying ways to meet those needs. The ways they choose may not be ways that are safe or responsible.
The best way to be successful is to decide ahead of time that you are both able to get your needs met in the situation. You can win, your child can win, and, consequently, your relationship will win by going through this process.
Continuing to work through it until you find an acceptable solution for both of you is the goal. Never give up on your ability to create this third alternative. It is always within your grasp if both of you are willing to create it.