Tough Negotiator

Recently I finished studying a “Business negotiation” program. I had the goal that after completing this lesson, I could improve my negotiation skills not only on business occasions such as negotiating with a new vendor, partner or sometimes the offer package with HR, but also that I could also be in a better situation when negotiating with my son.

My friends often mentioned that at a certain age, children are more likely to negotiate on lots of things. John is also behaving this way.

“You need to go to bed at 9 pm,” I told John.

“Could I go to bed at 9:30 pm? My classmates sleep at 9:30 or later.”

“More sleep is better for you. It’s good for your brain and body growth.“ I told my son.

“But can I sleep at 9:15 pm? I just want to finish this…” John said.

This is just a small example of the daily negotiation, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

I reviewed my notes from school and thought I was ready to try to implement some tactics on my son. Here are the 3 terms I would like to try – Learn the other party’s BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) so that I could plan what to offer; make multiple offers simultaneously so that the other party is most likely to accept one of them, think about what is on my NO list to stay firm;

One night after his badminton class, he said: “Mom, I want to have a bubble tea.”

I said: “Bubble tea is so sweet and cold. It’s not good for your teeth and stomach.” I tried to learn his BATNA, “I can take you to the movie theater this weekend. I heard there’s a new movie, which looks great. Do you want to watch the trailer and see if you would like to go? Or, your friend’s mom asked me the other day if you would like to go their home for a play day this Saturday.” I thought they’re his best interests as he always likes to watch a movie or go to a friend’s home to play. I also tried to make multiple offers and clearly declare my “No” list, which is no bubble tea before bedtime.

“Mom, but how about chips? I want chips for snack tomorrow and for the whole week.” John was testing my BATNA, too. Later I felt that chips were his goal, not bubble tea, as he gave up bubble tea so soon.

“Son, chips are a kind of junk food. They’re not healthy. I suggest you stay away from junk food as it does no good to your body.” I told him my No list –no chips.

“But my classmates always have chips as a snack. Why can’t I have chips?” Chips and fries are always John’s favorites, although I have been promoting healthy food to him for years, fried food is so enticing to children, isn’t it?

“Every family has their rules. We don’t need to follow others. “ I insisted on my healthy plan approach.

“I like chips so much; I don’t have chips, but my classmates always have them. They even don’t like to exchange snacks with me because my snacks look no good at all. “ John continued describing the situation. Did it sound a bit sad really? A boy always looks at his buddies having chips. But what’s wrong with a healthy snack? Are apple slices and multi-grain cookies so bad looking?

“When Daddy was here, he bought me bags of chips; I felt I was so lucky at that time.” It made me feel bad again. Am I that bad compared to my husband?

“But I want you to be healthy. So I am a stickler for healthy eating, and your dad isn’t! I always take you out to have play days but your dad doesn’t. So we just have different opinions. I just want you to be healthy and good. Those junk foods are really bad for your body.” What method was I using? I didn’t know, but I became illogical as I faced a tough negotiator with all kinds of powerful cards.

“One day Harrison shared some chips with me; after that, I have him as my best friend…” John said

What? John’s friendship equals some chips? That’s sad. I felt my “no list” starting to shake.

“Every time he shares some chips with me, I feel they are gold and diamonds. I don’t want to lose a tiny crumb of them. One day, one piece of a chip dropped to the ground, and I looked for it for 5 minutes, but it was still good, and I ate it. I won’t waste any of them although sometimes they’re as invisible as dandruff…” John continued his touching description.

I parked at 7-11, and I told him, “Here is five dollars, just this time, buy a bag of chips.”

I lost to the tough negotiator….