News Herald – Juliann Talkington
Negotiation is a part of the human experience whether someone is trying to come to common ground with a family member on who cleans the kitchen or an employer on salary. As a result, it is imperative for everyone to learn how to negotiate effectively.
It is impossible to become a good negotiator without practice. This means children need age appropriate opportunities to negotiate with siblings, peers, buyers and sellers, and people in positions of authority.
Early in life, most negotiations are related to peer and sibling interactions – who gets the ball first, who gets the colored pencils, etc. Fortunately, family structure and the early education system in the U.S. provide many opportunities for kids to practice these peer-to-peer and sibling negotiations.
By the time children enter middle school, they are ready to learn how to negotiate with buyers and sellers and people in positions of authority. Most U.S. children do not have many opportunities to practice these types of negotiations.
U.S. tweens and teens aren’t involved in many business transactions that require negotiation, however, they have plenty of opportunities to negotiate with people in positions of authority about issues with classroom assignments and grades, sports team and drama and music group tryouts, etc. The issue is parents handle most these negotiations for them.
There is some uncertainty about why parents handle these negotiations for their kids. Some people argue that college has become so expensive that parents want to ensure scholarship money is available. Others believe parents are living through their children.
I heard a story that adds perspective.
A girl wanted to join an advanced sports team that was well beyond her abilities. The girl and her mom discussed the requirements and the possible outcomes. Then the girl trained diligently, asked her current coach for a recommendation, arranged a tryout at the new team, practiced what she would say to the new coach, and went to the tryout by herself. She worked hard and improved at every practice. When the coach told her he was adding national level players to the team rather than her, she asked if she could stay and train.
He was so shocked with her work ethic and ability to advocate for herself that he agreed. Months later when she asked if she might be able to join the team, the coach agreed.
Perhaps parents should reconsider their approach. “Letting go” teaches more and often provides greater opportunity.