Cover image for How to negotiate with kids : even when you think you shouldn't : 7 essential skills to end conflict and bring more joy into your family
How to negotiate with kids : even when you think you shouldn't : 7 essential skills to end conflict and bring more joy into your family
Brown, Scott.
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Publication Information:
New York : Viking, [2003]

Physical Description:
xiv, 218 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
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HQ755.85 .B77 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Childrens Area-Family Place

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A vast readership awaits How to Negotiate with Kids. It addresses some of today's top parenting concerns: how to deal with a child who disagrees, how to avoid being either an ogre or a pushover, and-most of all-how to handle conflicts in ways that build lasting relationships with children. Scott Brown, a founding member of the world-famous Harvard Negotiation Project, coauthor of Getting Together, and a father of four, has found that parents face the same dilemmas as negotiators everywhere. Now he has adapted his highly acclaimed techniques to teach parents how to: € manage their own emotions and reactions during conflict € manage their children's emotions and strengthen their emotional control € listen in ways that will build understanding € negotiate solutions to common problems € teach their children to be problem solvers € learn when not to negotiate € discipline wisely Personal anecdotes, stories from Brown's workshop families, and sample dialogues of "right" and "wrong" approaches make How to Negotiate with Kidsan essential tool for parents who want to reduce conflict and strengthen their families in ways that will protect their children's emotional health and happiness.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Brown, a founding member of the acclaimed Harvard Negotiation Project, brings his negotiating skills to the parenting arena. A parent of four himself, he realized that parents can apply the same negotiating skills used at work to their home life. Brown first explains the difference in negotiating styles, which can be summarized as "hard bargaining" and "accommodating." Put simply, the former want to lay down the rules while the latter may be too willing to give in to their children's demands. The key to using negotiation tactics successfully as a parent is to "balance coercion with persuasion." Toward that end, Brown advises parents to focus on the problem, not the child. He says, "Rather than turn on your children, turn to the issue.... One way to focus on the problem rather than on your child is to regard yourself as an observer of the dispute." Other useful tenets include working on solutions together, creating options rather than narrow choices and making rules rather than threats. Brown offers advice on related parenting issues such as discipline and listening; his suggestions on engaging kids in longer conversations without seeming to interrogate them are sound. Many hypothetical conversations-both productive and not-so productive ones-are included to illustrate the author's points. This is a first-rate advice book that parents with children of any age will find helpful. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One Your Conflict Style The parents in my Negotiating with Children workshops come loaded with questions: "How can I get my daughter to take a bath? . . . How can I get my son to bed without a fight? . . . How can I get out of the grocery store without two arguments and a candy bar?" Parents come looking for ways to make their lives easier and their relationships stronger and for answers to problems with behavior and discipline. Even those with "easy" children come looking for better ways to deal with their differences. Most of all, they come with stories-sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and usually familiar. Here are a few samples. Five-year-old Lucas and his mother struggle over everything from play dates to baths. Dinnertime can be especially frustrating. lucas: "I hate beans. I can't eat them." mother: "You need to eat three bites." lucas (grimacing and whining): "I can't eat three bites. I'll throw up." mother: "That's fine. Just eat three bites." lucas (a minute later): "There, I'm done." mother: "You're not done. You didn't eat three bites." lucas (almost bursting with denial): "I did too! They were small." mother: "That won't do it." lucas: "All right, three beans. I already ate one." mother: "I said three bites." lucas: "That is three bites. They're big." mother: "They're beans." lucas: "If I eat three beans, how many M&M's can I have?" mother: "I don't know." lucas: "Twenty?" mother: "No, you haven't eaten enough." lucas: "I ate all my applesauce and all my bread!" mother: "All right, ten M&M's." lucas: "Fifteen." mother: "I said ten." lucas: "If I finish my milk, can I have fifteen?" mother: "OK, but you have to bring your plate to the kitchen." Nine-year-old Sadie has become much more particular about what she wears. Mornings ring with wails of "Where's my blue shirt?" and slamming drawers. sadie's father: "Sadie, put your shoes on for school." sadie: "I'm wearing my sandals." father: "Sadie, it's snowing." sadie: "I don't care." father: "Sadie, don't be stubborn. You can't wear sandals." sadie (exploding): "I'm NOT STUBBORN!" father: "Your toes will freeze." sadie: "So? They're my toes!" father: "Sadie, put on your shoes." sadie: "I hate my shoes." father: "What's wrong with your shoes?" sadie: "I hate them." father: "Just like that? You hate them? You just bought them a month ago." sadie: "So? They're ugly." father: "Look, Sadie, it's snowing. You have to wear your shoes." sadie (erupting): "Then I won't go to school!" father: "Sadie, stop it! You have to go to school." sadie: "Then I won't wear my shoes." father: "Fine. I don't care what you wear!" Twelve-year-old Jenna and her parents are struggling to handle her mood swings and growing independence. Even simple comments turn into arguments. jenna (getting up from the dinner table): "I'm going to Ali's." mother: "Wait a minute. You're not excused." jenna (rolling her eyes and loudly thumping her plate back onto the table): "May I be excused?" father: "You haven't said anything about what happened in school today." jenna (slumping in her chair with exaggerated indifference): "Nothing happened." mother: "Anything new at practice?" jenna (staring at the table): "No. Can I go now?" mother: "What are you doing at Ali's?" jenna: "Jeez, what is this, the Inquisition?" father: "Hey, we just want to know what you're doing." jenna: "I don't ask what you're doing when you go out, do I?" mother: "OK, go! Be back by nine, and take the trash out when you go." jenna: "Why do I have to do the trash all the time? Why can't Alex do it?" father: "Jenna, that's enough! If you want to go, take the trash. Otherwise, stay home!" jenna (mumbling as she drops her dishes in the sink): "I have to do everything around here." Different ages bring different conflicts. The clucking of parents caring for an infant soon changes to nagging: "Pick up your room. . . . Take off your boots. . . . Drink your milk. . . . Be home by ten. . . . Don't yell in the house. . . . Don't rock in your chair. . . . Don't hang out with that crowd." As our kids grow older, the attention they once demanded becomes an unwelcome shadow. The issues between us grow more serious, and the punishments more severe. Instead of becoming closer to our children, we find ourselves drifting apart. Meanwhile, we parents still have bosses to please, car payments to make, marriages (or divorces) to manage, meals to cook, laces to tie, library books to find, play dates to organize, rides to give, cleats to buy, and on and on. Stressed out more often than not, we don't always handle our family conflicts well. We feel frustration, anger, shame, and self-doubt. We may ask ourselves, "Why did I yell at Ben? What's wrong with me? Why can't I stay calm? What am I doing wrong?" Conflict with our kids shouldn't surprise us. After all, living under one roof with different children of different ages, each with his or her own interests, fears, tastes, schedules, and personality, is bound to produce conflict. With a little forethought, we should have known that each would like different meals, different sports, and different TV shows. We should have expected that we would want our children to help around the house when they would want to play; that we would want them to pursue certain friendships while they would want to pursue others; that we would want them to eat vegetables and they would want McDonald's. Kids aren't out to get us. They just have their own ideas about what to do, what's right, and what's good to eat. Who can blame them for that? Still, the frequent arguments get to us. Although we mostly hear about teenage fireworks, conflict is especially common in the early years of parenting. Sixty-five percent of our interactions with toddlers involve conflict, with an argument erupting every six to eight minutes. Four-year-olds take the cake, with seventeen conflicts per hour.1 Instead of expecting a family life without conflict, we should expect conflict and learn to handle it well. Negotiation Styles People don't like conflict. We don't like conflict on the road, in the office, or in the home. As one negotiation seminar participant told me years ago, "I hate arguing. I'd rather give blood." When others disagree with us, fight us, or defy us, our stress hormones are released, and our emotions flare. Some of us want to fight, to assert control. Others just want to get out of the way. As we learn to deal with the discomfort of conflict, we develop habits and styles of negotiation that help us deal with stress and end conflict quickly, but not necessarily wisely. We want short-term relief more strongly than long-term resolution.2 Years ago negotiation "experts" began to classify the most typical styles for dealing with conflict into four categories.3 Hard bargainers push their own interests and pay relatively little attention to the interests of others. They are often domineering and tend to be emotionally reactive. They want to get what they want, and quickly. Accommodators are willing to sacrifice their own interests for those of others and tend to value their relationships more than the outcome of a dispute. These negotiators empathize with the feelings of others and give in to preserve the relationships or to buy peace, at least temporarily. Avoiders duck conflict altogether when they can. The stress of conflict triggers a full-flight response for these folks. They prefer to sacrifice their own interests, and maybe their relationships too, rather than fight. Collaborators work hard to preserve their own interests but want to see others get what they want too. They push hard, but they also work hard on their relationships. These people spend more time talking through conflicts and sometimes don't know when to stop. Over the years we've learned that some professions, cultures, and genders lean more toward one style than another. For example, trial lawyers tend to be hard bargainers, while secretaries tend to be avoiders. Women are more likely than men to be accommodators. These sorts of generalizations are, of course, dangerously simplistic and riddled with exceptions, but the trends and patterns suggest that our culture (and maybe our biology) affects our style. Each style has its place. Some circumstances require a quick solution and a strong stance. Other conflicts are best avoided. Although none of the four styles is either always right or always wrong, some of us lean too heavily on styles that help us end conflict quickly: hard bargaining, accommodating, and avoiding. Negotiation and collaboration take time. In the face of stressful conflict, we often look for a quick fix, sometimes stiffening when we should bend or bending when we should stiffen. Many of us, of course, would take more time if we could, but we have schedules to meet and jobs to do. Elementary school teachers everywhere get calls from commuting parents reporting: "I'm so sorry Anna is in a sour mood. We had a fight this morning, but I have to get to work. See what you can do. Good luck. I'm sorry." We'll talk later about ways to work around time constraints, but keep in mind that time spent now to deal well with a conflict can save time later. This may not be fun, but it's important. Engage your children during conflict; don't stifle it, avoid it, or give in. Strong relationships take time-lots of time. Parenting Styles As I thought more about my own parenting and the parents around me, I began to wonder. Could the skills and ideas used to train negotiators help parents deal more effectively with conflict at home and build stronger relationships with their kids? Are parents more likely to adopt one strategy for dealing with conflict than another, just as some cultures, professions, and genders do? Does our culture tell us to deal with family disagreements in a particular way? Do we behave differently at home from at work? Watching scores of parents in grocery stores, schoolyards, and playgrounds, I saw most of them struggling mightily to strike the right balance, to set limits for their kids but also to show their care and love. During the most intense and frustrating conflicts, however, I often saw parents follow one of two tracks, either laying down the law or giving in. Some parents, I noticed, negotiate with their children the way many governments deal with with terrorists. "Don't negotiate," they say. "Parents should be in charge. If you give them an inch, they'll take a mile." These parents approach conflict like tough hard bargainers: They set the rules, establish clear limits, and allow little "backtalk" or opposition. They do negotiate, but sometimes only through painful arguments and plenty of punishment. Their kids push back by dodging the rules and rebelling with silence, stubbornness, and rejection. Other parents are more likely to accommodate or avoid conflict. "Are you kidding?" they say. "We gave up fighting long ago. Why make life miserable? Life is too short." Accommodators let their children bend the rules. They are afraid to be too strict, afraid their children will dislike them or rebel. These parents are in another form of negotiation, carving out one concession after another until the reed of parental authority is as slender as a toothpick. Unaccustomed to practical limits, their children don't know when to stop pushing and don't learn to respect the needs of others. Although many parents negotiate with their children, most seem to choose quick solutions when they face stressful arguments. A recent study of 212 midwestern adolescents seems to confirm these observations. The study found that 59 percent of parents settle conflicts through hard bargaining coercion, 30 percent through withdrawal or acquiescence (the survey did not distinguish the two), and only 11 percent through negotiation.4 What's going on here? Does our discomfort with conflict drive us toward short-term strategies in the way we deal with our children? Could too much emphasis on our own needs or those of our children prompt us to be either too hard or too soft? --from How to Negotiate with Kids Even If You Think You Shouldn't: 7 Essential Skills to End Conflict and Bring More Joy into Your Family by Scott Brown, Copyright © 2003 by Scott Brown, published by Viking Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher. Excerpted from How to Negotiate with Kids... Even When You Think You Shouldn't: 7 Essential Skills to End Conflict and Bring More Joy into Your Family by Scott Brown All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

acknowledgmentsp. vii
broccoli, baths, and bedtime-why i needed this bookp. xi
Chapter 1 Your Conflict Stylep. 1
Chapter 2 Deal with Your Emotions Before You Deal with Your Childrenp. 24
Chapter 3 Help Your Child Deal with His Emotions Toop. 51
Chapter 4 Listen to Learnp. 77
Chapter 5 Talk to Teachp. 105
Chapter 6 Persuade, Don't Coercep. 123
Chapter 7 Discipline Wiselyp. 156
Chapter 8 What's Nonnegotiable?p. 180
Chapter 9 Mediating Sibling Rivalryp. 189
Chapter 10 I Knew Thatp. 199
notesp. 201
indexp. 211