Using “Yes, and…” to negotiate

Using “Yes, and…” to negotiate

“Yes, And…”

These two words are some of the most important in our toolbox as NAP parents. Nobody likes hearing “No”. “No” doesn’t feel good, and children are operating in the realm of feelings more often than an adult.

See how using “Yes, and…” transforms the following conversations:

Child: “Mom can I have another scoop of ice cream?”
Parent: “No, one is plenty, and I already put it away.”

or

Child: “Mom can I have another scoop of ice cream?”
Parent: “Yes, and since you’re still hungry will you please have two more servings of vegetables first?”

 

Child: “Dad can I play on the tablet?”
Parent: “No, you’ve been playing too much today. Do your homework.”

or

Child: “Dad can I play on the tablet?”
Parent: “Yes, and what I need from you first is to finish your homework, and clear the table”

 

Child: “Mom can Joey come spend the night?”
Parent: “No, last time he was here you both fought, and wrestled, and destroyed things.”

or

Child: “Mom can Joey come spend the night?”
Parent: “Yes, and before you two run off and play, we need to sit down with him and his mother and get some agreements about the rules and standards here”

 

You’ll notice in each of these exchanges the parent is simply negotiating. “Yes you can have what you want, and here’s what I want in exchange.”

Even if the child asks for something outrageous, the proverbial pony for Christmas, do them the favor of imagining with them what you would need to grant that wish. “Yes you can have a pony! And a pony needs this much fencing, and food, and medical bills. When you’re willing and able to pay for ~85% of that over the course of it’s life, I’m happy to plan that with you.”

Just remember, nearly everything is negotiable in this world. Your kid isn’t asking to put the cat in the blender here. Save your “no’s” for those moments, when they’re absolutely necessary. Say “no” rarely, and when you have to say “no”, do it only from a truly non-negotiable position. If you say “no” when you mean “maybe later”, your “no’s” will lose their power, and you’ll invite nagging and begging.

Mom can we go to the playground today?
No.
(Later) Oh but we’re passing it right now! Can I just run around for 15 minutes?
Oh alright, that’s fine.

So, the child learns that when you say no, you mean “Maybe”. When they hear “No”, they should start looking for other opportunities to get a yes. They hear “No” as a invitation to negotiate. Not good.

In a negotiation you can ask for whatever you want, and you can be playful with it. Everybody should walk away happy. I’m often pleasantly surprised when I have a high “asking price” and the child decides to meet it. “You want to go scuba diving half-way across the world you say? Here’s what I need: this level of performance with your school work, this amount of chores, and this type of behavior (defined in a contract), consistently, for this duration. I’ll also need help paying for it, so I’m willing to put up a certain amount, and I’ll need you to pay for the rest.” And I wasn’t kidding; when they’re about to finish the contract, I’m searching for flights with a smile on my face!

Your child will appreciate the sincerity and respect with which you handle their wishes.

And if you’re thinking “well then we’ll spend all day negotiating about everything under the sun!”, I would argue that children tend to ask for a million little things when they are accustomed to their requests NOT being taken seriously, or when they get an (often overturned) “No” 90% of the time. Someone who says “No” most of the time, and only occasionally and unpredictably says “Yes”, is the equivalent of a human slot machine, and will invite the same treatment. This isn’t speculation, but is confirmed by research in reward schedules.

There’s a comfort and safety we all have in knowing that we’re dealing with someone who is willing to work with us and our wishes, and we have a natural tendency to be more easy-going and respectful of those types. Give your child that comfort, and expect to receive it from them!

 

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