Guestpost by Sara Mansson
Sometimes arguments break out between our children and we wish we knew how to prevent them. Can’t they just listen to each other and compromise? The art of successful negotiation is a skill which is important to social situations throughout life; going far beyond agreeing on a movie to watch with the whole family. Negotiation involves abilities such as listening to others, expressing empathy, and to coming to a good compromise. Children practice these skills early in life such as by deciding what game to play with their friends or by coming to an agreement with their sibling about who should get to play with which new toy. Oftentimes this practicing is accompanied by loud arguments and even aggression between siblings or peers. How can you help them to learn peaceful negotiation skills?
Involve. The easiest way to introduce correct negotiation techniques to your child is to involve them. Good moments to involve your child in a negotiation could be when discussing what activities you should do for your family outing the upcoming weekend, or when discussing the family schedule to see if it is possible for your child to start karate classes like they asked to. The more exposure your child receives to useful methods, the more likely they are to remember and use them in the future! Involve your children in role-playing; allowing them to try debating from both sides of the negotiation.
Explain. When your child is involved in a family debate or is trying to reach a compromise with a sibling, it’s important that they are able to listen to the other’s point of view. Explain to your child that it is important to show that they have listened to and understood the other sibling. Give your child examples of how they can show this, such as by summarizing what the other has said or by asking relevant questions.
Agreeing vs. Arguing. Another point which is important to keep in mind about negotiation is teaching your child that they are trying to find common ground to agree on. This means that it is not a matter of winning or losing a battle – it’s a matter of bargaining and hearing both sides.
Set a good example. Examples are much more important for the learning of social skills than any of our best teaching methods will ever be. As a parent, you have to negotiate too sometimes. Perhaps with your children, but maybe with others; teachers, grandparents, shop keepers, your boss… When your child is near, they will observe and take in ‘how it is done’. Show your children how to negotiate by setting the right example for them.
Wait. While your children or your child and their friends start negotiating, try to step back and allow them to try and solve the problem amongst themselves. We all learn by trial and error, stepping in too soon might prevent your child from learning important lessons.
So what can you do when things do start getting out of hand? Read about it in our next blog!
Expat Child Psychology offers Social Skills 4 Kids group courses for children aged 9 to 12 which helps, among other things, to improve their problem solving skills.