Communication - How to Negotiate "no" effectively with your 7-12 year old child "tween".
How to negotiate a "no" with your tween - Tips for communicating with your pre-teen child
Is your communication with your child becoming combative?
Communication between a parent and their child begins to change as the child enters the Tween (7-12) years. When parents don't get a handle on this change early on, by the age of 12, families often find themselves locked into ongoing conflicts about some fairly significant issues as well as minor ones. The term pick your battles is neat but what does it really mean?
Be clear and consistent about what is really important to your family. What is important should reflect the values of your household - yourself, your partner (if you have one) and your children. Values are best when they are a true representation of the people living in the household rather than imported from external sources.
Responding rather than reacting to a problem will help you to communicate the value that lies behind the issue and confirm where the boundary is.
As parents we all bring the best and worst of our own parents to our parenting style. Some historical messages can be really helpful and positive but there are others which may not reflect the values in your home today. If you and your partner were raised differently discuss how you both want to parent and try to get on the same page or explore where there can be compromises made. If the parents cannot agree the children will use this opportunity to play one parent against the other. This can happen in homes where the family is together and where the parents are separated or divorced.
For example when your 7 year old presents you with a really great idea, which you know is a no brainier to say "no" to for many reasons, instead of stating a firm "no" as a reaction try to respond. A firm no without a reason will simply not work. Instead begin to teach skill building in negotiation by using empathy and effective (open) communication.
How you say no and the reasons behind the no are essential for keeping lines of communication open so that our child does not learn to just do it without asking.
For a parent, saying no up to the age of 7 has been effective, therefore making the change to a more negotiated no can be a big adjustment.
When you feel a "no" rushing out of your mouth take a breath and think about what is important . Why are you saying no and what reasons will you give. Be open to hearing what your child has to say and try to put yourself in their shoes for a moment. This may be a big deal for them. Your fears and concerns may be valid or they may be based on historical information.
Sort your thoughts and initial reaction out and buy yourself time by asking a question such as - can I have moment to think about what you've asked; How about we sit down and talk some more about this; ask for more information and why this is important; who thought of the idea;.....
There is a big pay off to doing this. By the time the child is ready to enter the teen years, if you have built on the skill building model and kept communication open, your child will be able to use those tools with you, with teachers, school friends etc.
The teen years present their own set of concerns and behaviors as hormones, brain development and other physical changes take place. Communication may not always go well. However, when things do go wrong, acknowledging our part in the conflict and maintaining an open door will go a long way to lessening the potential for conflict next time.
Examples of a "no" negotiation
Examples of an effective "no"
- My daughter (age 12) and I had a conversation about whether or not she could go to the mall on her own with a friend. It was a no but we came up with a compromise that I would also go and hang out in the coffee shop.
- My teen wanted to colour her black hair all over. We talked about what she liked about different hair colours and the fact that hair colour can really damage the hair. We agreed to check it out with a local hairdresser we both like. The hairdresser talked to my daughter about damage that can happen to hair from colouring at too young an age. The compromise was seven foil highlights in a dramatic colour contrasting with her own hair.
Both of the above examples reflect values in our household which work for us. Using empathy and keeping the discussion open led to, in both cases, a safe and satisfactory outcome for me as the mum and my children who are beginning the journey towards independence.
If conflicts are happening on a more regular basis, try to sidestep the power struggle before the teen years. Setting clear boundaries, being consistent and available to listen will bring strength to your relationship as you navigate the potentially turbulent waters that lie ahead