Negotiating with your teen may be a good tactic if your teenager routinely tells you that you don’t listen to him or her, you don’t respect his or her opinions and you generally operate as an autocrat. You may not agree with any of this, but negotiating with your teen could go a long way towards allowing your teen to feel as though (s)he is being heard and to encourage better behaviour. If you are interested in negotiating with your teen, discuss the issues open for negotiation, make sure you both understand each other’s positions, work together to come up with a new set of rules and decide on a time limit for a trial period. Together you might be able to find a compromise which suits you both.
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Discuss the Issues Open for Negotiation
If you decide to negotiate with your teen make sure you communicate to him or her what is up for discussion and what is off limits. For example you might remind him or her that purchasing a new laptop is not possible due to budget constraints but that you are open to discussing your laptop being borrowed for a period each evening. When you sit down to chat:
- Find a private setting away from your other children.
- Do not make negative comments about your teen pestering you into this discussion.
- Make a positive statement that you believe it’s best to talk about this particular issue.
- Use a neutral tone and avoid closed or aggressive body language.
- Do not descend into yelling or arguing.
- Remind your teen that you will ultimately set the rules, but you want his/her input.
Understand Each Other’s Positions
Do not end your discussion with your teen until you both understand each other’s positions and your reasoning behind them. This will require each of you to speak calmly about what you like and don’t like about the current situation. Remember to:
- Be open to what your teen is saying.
- Explain why current household rules were set.
- Ask your teen what (s)he specifically doesn’t like about the current situation.
- Ask your teen how the current situation makes him or her feel.
- Ask if there are any facts/figures/missing information to help your decision making.
- Ask for definitions, for example, “What does being responsible mean to you?”
- Use relevant examples of your teen’s behaviour if needed, not something from years ago.
- Keep the focus on the rule and the behaviour, not on your teen as a person.
- Be big enough to admit if you were wrong about something.
Work Together on New Rules
You may find in your discussion that more than one issue arises about a household rule. Don’t marginalise these issues even if they were not the reason you sat down. Instead, bring them into the negotiation. You might tell your son that your version of being responsible with a laptop is to avoid inappropriate sites, keep it clean, use it only during allotted times and return it to your office desk each evening. Ask him then if he agrees that these seem like actions a responsible person would take. When you are able to agree on such items then a compromise becomes much more likely.
Set a Time Limit on the Trial Period
After you negotiate a new rule with your teen set a time limit for how long you are willing to experiment with this compromise. At this time also brainstorm on how you can each judge if the compromise was successful, and what you can do if it was not or if you disagree about the success. Make a date for this review at the chosen time and discuss if there are any materials you will need to bring to this meeting (receipts, spreadsheets, etc). Not only will this ensure that your teen understands there is a trial period but will also make him or her aware that a certain standard of behaviour is required for the compromise to continue.
Negotiating with your teen is a way of encourage good behaviour by allowing him or her input into the rules governing his or her behaviour. If you are open to negotiations with your teen then discuss which rules are up for discussion and which are not, make sure each understands the other’s positions, work together to compromise on new rules and set a time limit for a trial period after which the compromises will be reviewed.