Negotiating with teenagers: Crazy or critical?

You may put the notion of “negotiating” with teenagers on the same level as negotiating with toddlers: Crazy. After all, both teenagers and toddlers are notoriously illogical and poor decision makers. But does that mean you should never try to engage in negotiation with your teen? Nope. Deal-making, whether negotiation, compromise, bargaining or some other variation, is a critical life skill and your teen needs to learn it from you.


During the uncertain teen years — not quite child, not quite adult — your child is transitioning (as are you!) from having you make all of the major decision in his or her life to doing it all herself. The evolution is a negotiation in and of itself. You’re trying to hold on a little longer even while you know should be encouraging a certain amount of independence, and your child seems to be pushing you away and pulling you closer for safety at the same time. It’s confusing for everyone!

Clashes and conflicts

The teen years don’t have to be all clashes and conflict. As confusing as the adolescent years are for all of you, you still have a tremendous amount of influence on your child. You child needs to learn effective and appropriate deal-making skills. He or she needs to understand the give and take, the meaning of compromise and what makes a bargain a bargain. You likely use all the worlds already — bargain, deal, compromise — but next time there’s a disagreement that could get a little tense or heated, try taking a step back and thinking about some more formal negotiations with your teen.

Give a little autonomy

Your child is likely looking for more autonomy in decision-making, reflecting his or her emergence into the adult world. While giving your child total autonomy in decision may not be quite appropriate, looking for ways for your child to have some autonomy within the context of your family life may help bolster mutual respect. Take this into account when negotiating with your teen on issues. Find ways your child can demonstrate his or her growing ability to be responsible. It may take a bit of a leap of faith on your part, but don’t most deals?

Parental authority

All that said, you are still the parent, and there are some issues where your decision overrules both your child’s desire and any desire by you to allow some autonomy. There are just times when you know best. These are times when the voices may still rise, and the negotiations may break down into conflict, but there is still a lesson in deal-making to be learned by both of you — and that is that not all deals get done.

A lifetime skill

Negotiation is a lifetime skill. In the process, you learn that some deals go in your favor and some don’t. Sometimes a bargain is a bargain, and sometimes it’s…not. Compromise can feel like everyone wins — or everyone loses. Taking extra care to reiterate deal-making skills during the turbulent adolescent years can put your child in the position to negotiate the world beyond your safe home.

More on teenage behavior

Understanding your teen’s behavior
Normal teen behavior
6 Ways to tame teen behavior

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