Negotiating with teenagers: benefits

When you negotiate well with pre-teens and teenagers, it helps them learn how to:

  • think through what they want and need

  • communicate their wants and needs in a reasonable way

  • understand other perspectives

  • compromise

  • make good decisions.

Negotiating is also good for you and your relationship with your child. That’s because negotiating is about communicating well, working together and finding solutions you can both accept.

Preparing for successful negotiations with pre-teens and teenagers

Sometimes you might know that a negotiation is coming. For example, your child might have been talking about a party their friends are going to. In this situation, you have time to get ready. You can think about what’s important to you and what you can be flexible about. You could discuss the issue with your partner or a friend, or write down what you want to say. 

But sometimes you might not be ready for the negotiation, or you might need time to think about what you will and won’t compromise on. For example, your child might say, ‘I want to go to the movies on Saturday night’. Or if your child is older or more assertive, your child might say, ‘I’m going to the movies tonight’. 

If this happens and you don’t feel ready to negotiate, it’s okay to set a time to talk later. But make sure it’s soon. This will help your child trust that you’ll keep your word. It also tells your child that coming to a compromise is important to you. If it’s an issue that needs another parent’s input, set aside a time that allows you all to discuss the situation together.

Negotiation techniques to use with pre-teens and teenagers

Successful negotiating with teenagers has a lot to do with the negotiation techniques you use. Here are some negotiation techniques to use with your child. 

Listening and talking during negotiations 

  • Use a calm, warm and firm voice to set the tone. The idea is to avoid getting into a conflict with your child. For example, you could say, ‘Let’s talk about this’.

  • Actively listen to your child’s views first without interrupting. For example, ‘So you’re saying that you really want to dye your hair pink for the dress-up party, even though it will stay that colour for a long time. You also know that it might wreck your hair a bit’.

  • Express your views, and ask your child to tell you more about theirs. For example, ‘I want you to have fun and see your friends, but I also need to know you’ll be safe. So tell me more about the bike ride. What can we agree on to make sure you’re safe?’

  • Take a break if things get tense or you can’t reach a compromise. For example, ‘I need some time out, so let’s work this out after dinner’, or ‘We don’t seem to be getting anywhere. Let’s both go away and think about this before we talk again’.

​Reaching decisions you can both accept

  • Be clear about what is and isn’t negotiable. Understanding your child’s personality and maturity will help you decide on this. The level of trust you have in your child based on past events is also important. For example, ‘I don’t want you to travel home from the cinema on your own. How about I pick you up?’

  • Think of a range of options. For example, ‘I don’t want you to paint your room black because it makes the house feel too dark. Is there another colour you’d be happy with, or could you paint just one wall? What are your other ideas?’

  • Be firm about your non-negotiables. For example, ‘It doesn’t matter what other people are doing. I’ll pick you up after the movie finishes’.

  • Show that you’re willing to compromise and that you want to agree on something that you can both accept. For example, ‘I know you want to check social media, but you also need to finish your homework and get enough sleep. How much social media time do you think is okay after you allow time for homework and sleep?’

When you’ve reached a decision: next steps

  • Clearly state the decision that you and your child have agreed on. For example, ‘Okay. You can go to the party with your friends. I’ll pick you up at 11 pm’. Your child might be unhappy with the decision. Give your child time to accept it without trying to convince them of its benefits.

  • Discuss and agree on the consequences if the agreement is broken. For example, ‘We’ve agreed that you can paint one wall in your room black. We’ve also agreed that if you paint any more than that, you’ll have to buy the white paint yourself and paint the walls white again. Okay?’

  • End on a positive note even if the negotiation wasn’t perfect. For example, ‘Thanks for talking that through with me. I appreciate that we were able to work things out in the end. It shows me that you’re a mature person’.

  • Notice when your child sticks to the agreement and praise them. For example, ‘Thank you for making sure you were home by 11 pm. I appreciate the fact that you stuck to our agreement. I’ll feel comfortable the next time you want to go out’.

Using your authority when negotiating

As your child develops, using your authority and influence in a respectful and positive way will help keep your relationship strong and open.

As your child moves into older adolescence, it’s still important to use your authority to protect your child’s safety and wellbeing. For example, it’s okay for you to stand firm on knowing where your child is going, when they’ll be coming home and when they need to call you about changes to arrangements.

You might find that your child is challenging your authority more as they get older. For example, your child might say, ‘I am going to do that and you can’t stop me’. The way you respond might depend on your child’s age.

For example, if your child is 12 years old, you might say, ‘As your parent I’m responsible for your safety, but I want to help you get what you want too. Let’s talk more and try to work it out’.
But if your child is 16 years old, you might say, ‘I want to support you in doing what you want, but I’m still responsible for your safety. So I need to know where you’re going and who you’re with. Let’s talk more about this to see if we can find a solution we’re both happy with.’

©, translated and adapted with permission