Sunday, August 3, 2014

Learning to negotiate

Boys love to compete. You see it in their personalities. They are not meant to conform. God meant boys, I mean men to lead in the household. My boys will grow up to be men. (Ephesians 5:22)

"Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything."

My boys are 9, 4 and 2. They fight a lot.  
Well, they don't physically fight as my eldest is bound to win. He's much older and stronger. But they have many disagreements with one another, from which channel to listen in the car to who is first to talk and how dim the nightlight in the room should be (they sleep together). 

Now that my 4 year old is becoming more vocal, I am able to start having him and the 9 year old practise their skill of negotiation.  

Keys To Teaching Children To Negotiate - Patience and Perserverance
I discover lately that my 4 year old tries to get his brother's attention by teasing him in unappropriate manners. This results in my older boy getting very upset. 

Increasingly, there are more screaming and disagreements. I could almost understand each's feelings but is thinking how to cope with them. 

As I pen my thoughts down to provide some insightful tips for mothers like me, I found out what I did was:

1. Watch them and observe what is going on. Be A Listener

This is a very useful step that I take when I hear screaming and disagreements. I stay at home with my children full-time. However, staying at home does not mean that I am always there to listen. That is why I have to constantly remind myself to put away what I am doing and watch. 

Sometimes, I simply brush off the fight without teaching them skill of negotiation. It is easier for me to ask my elder boy to give in to the younger one or the other way round but it does not help in the long run. They resolve the argument temporarily and it happens again. 

2. Teach them that negotiation has to be done through words not action

Clever children also know how to do it by means of hierarchy and strength. I heard stories from my older children about how they played in the school. They sometimes get what they want by action. 

I am glad that my 4 year old is growing up and knows how to assert his rights with his brother. However, if he does not learn how to negotiate, there is bound to be plenty of protest and screaming.  

By order, the strong inevidently wins and if no negotiation is done between them, the result is  fight and protest.  They need to learn to negotiate in words. 

3. Show them how to negotiate by doing with them individually  

The most recent case happened in the River Safari and the playing was getting rough. I was enjoying the exhibits but increasingly, I noticed more protest coming from my 4 year old against his brother. First, I stopped to watch and listened. I realised that, as the boys were running out of patience for the exhibits, one of them started this game of tickling each other. I was not sure who did it first but it must have got both of them annoyed in the end.  

What happened was one would pause and look at the exhibit and the other would come from behind and tickle him. It was getting rowdier and I was concerned that it would affect others in the public. 

I then asked the older boy to stop retaliating to his brother's "attack". He didn't listen just as I expected and I had to have a round of my own negotiation with him. He was allowed to state his terms and at that time, his terms was to leave and eat french fries at the KFC at the exit. I said no to him because we had just got there for only an hour. I could understand his lack of patience for reading and would prefer other things like sports but it was unacceptable for me to just leave the grounds without completing the whole walk. I also knew that at 9 year old, he was definitely capable of completing the walk and finding out what interested him. We concluded that if he walks and not retaliate to his brother's attack, he would get his fries at the end of the trip. Well, this is not a topic on "how to resolve sibling rivalry" but I also took the same action on my 4 year old by negotiating with him.  

In the end, the walk was a breeze.

Showing them how to negotiate individually will give some idea how they should do it by themselves.

4. Have them practise the skill time to time

This is the part that I am still helping them. They are definitely not there yet but I know it would improve and I have to persist in my teaching. 

To quote an example, one evening, I was at my mom's place with my children. They wanted to play "shooting" but ended up unpleasantly with unfair cries from my 4 year old again. I reminded them to play nicely.

I watched and noticed that my eldest did not know how to negotiate with his younger brother in words. Unknowingly, after I reminded them to play nicely, he was already doing it, because I could see that he pretended to fall down when his brother "shot" him.  

However, if he did not ask his brother to follow, it will end up with protests. I was glad that he gave in in order to play but he did not state his terms to tell his brother to follow him. 

Seeing that, I helped him by telling my four year old to learn from his brother to fall down and  pretend "dead" too. Both enjoyed the game and it was fun. 

My eldest boy did not negotiate in words with his brother. He was hoping his brother would get it by copying him to play "dead". So, I reminded him that telling his brother what to do and negotiating would be a good idea next time. 

Many times, my children want to play with one another. You hear screaming and protest and it is unbearable. I learn over time, if I don't join in and pause to watch, I could find out what they need. I find out that learning to negotiate in words is the most important step to stop the screaming. 

My youngest is turning two soon and I see him asserting himself more. He used to let his 4 year old brother take all his toys. Now he realizes his rights and wants his ways. However, he hasn't develop the skill of speaking so he feels frustrated. He struggles to learn to negotiate with his siblings. 

I am still teaching but I know the road is long.

I hope this reading can encourage parents to help the children develop their negotiation skills. 

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