Negotiating with a child

How a Humanistic Parent uses negotiation to help their children learn how to think critically and better navigate social interactions.

I realize a lot of parenting experts counsel against negotiating with a child. They say it erodes parental authority. I think they are wrong. I negotiate with my child all the time. Negotiation is an important skill. It helps the child learn to use their words to get what they want and that is so much better than them thinking the only way to get what they want is through a tantrum. It helps them develop verbal skills, reasoning, and compassion.

Here are some basic negotiation techniques to help you get the most out of your child:

Treat negotiation like a game.

Negotiation done well is fun. Sometimes I throw in absurd conditions into the negotiation to see what my son will do with it.

Both sides must be willing to give and take a bit.

This helps your child understand and learn that you will be flexible only if they will. Reciprocity is a good thing for kids to learn.

You can’t always get what you want.

I often allow my son to attempt negotiation even when I know what he is trying to negotiate isn’t something he will succeed at. As he “forces” me to give him good reasons why I won’t give in, he learns quite a lot about my reasoning in the process. And, assuming I have a good reason why not to give in – he deserves to know what those reasons are.

Diminishing returns:

This is a trick I learned from my dad. If you offer a fair deal and your child refuses it – trying to get more, you start negotiating in the other direction, meaning, the deal the child is getting keeps getting worse and worse. For example, if you are negotiating a weekend bedtime and you offer an extra ½ hour and they want an extra hour – you might drop it to 15 minutes and if they keep trying to get their hour – drop to 10 minutes, 5 minutes, regular bedtime, ½ early. The reason to do this is because part of the art of negotiation is knowing when to stop and take the deal you have if it is a good deal. It doesn’t take long for them to understand that the more they protest, the more they are losing and they should take a good deal when it is offered.

Do you negotiate with your child? If so what are some of the techniques you use? 


  1. I agree. I negotiate with my four-year-old child.

    1. Julia - any particular techniques you use that you would like to share? ;)


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