Supporting Children to Negotiate 

by MJ Fisher

B. Soc. Sc.; GradDip Teaching; Dip. Care and Ed.

Negotiation is a skill children will need, yet surprisingly it is often one that is rarely taught.  Throughout our lives, negotiation will form a large portion of our experiences, both in childhood and beyond, for example, negotiating a turn of a toy, negotiating control of the television remote, negotiating friendships, negotiating work/project roles and responsibilities, negotiating employment contracts and working hours and negotiating the price of an item for sale.  Because negotiation takes place in dyadic situations, skilful and fair-minded negotiators do more than just find satisfaction in meeting their own needs.  They also achieve outcomes that meet the satisfaction of all involved.  When this occurs, personal satisfaction levels increase exponentially, thus having a positive effect on relationships and self-esteem.  For this reason, it cannot be understated how important it is to teach children to negotiate in ways that are fair, respectful and equitable. 

 

Why negotiation does not come naturally

 

Negotiation is not a skill that can typically be learnt from a textbook, nor is it a skill that is naturally occurring.  Instead, it relies heavily on lived experience.  The difficulty for most children is that negotiation requires a high degree of rational thinking and the ability to simultaneously consider another person's point of view, as well as their own.  Speaking generally, the need for negotiating results from two people having opposing wishes.  The difficulty for children is that in the heat of the moment they are typically trying to make the outcome of a situation fall in their favour, thus meaning they are likely to become less receptive to others’ needs, wishes and ideas.  As such, they need an adult's voice to become their own, to teach them how to problem solve, to guide them and to act as a child-friendly and, when possible, non-directive mediator.  

 

The adult's role 

 

It can be...