Book Review: How To Negotiate With Kids

How To Negotiate With Kids Even When You Think You Shouldn’t:  7 Essential Skills To End Conflict And Bring More Joy Into Your Family, by Scott Brown

While I was reading this book, for example, there were two interesting conversations I had involving it.  One was a conversation with an online friend of mine who felt that kids were able to make puppy dog faces and totally bend her to their will.  Another conversation came when I was reading this book during a quiet moment of preteen camp and the assistant director of the camp thought it was very practical reading.  And so it was, although I have no children nor any short and medium term prospects for any.  At any rate, what is it about this book that sparks people to immediately see its practical benefit?  To add to the mystery, this book does not say anything that is not already glaringly obvious.  There is very little new in this book that has not been said in books about parenting or leadership over the last fifty years or so [1].  The problem, as the author states wisely, is not knowing, but doing.  This book, like any self-help books, seeks to encourage people as far as the doing is concerned.

In terms of its contents, this book is pretty straightforward.  The author begins by encouraging the reader to investigate their own conflict style.  After that, he advises the reader to deal with their emotions before dealing with their children.  Then the author helpfully discusses how adults need to help children deal with their emotions too.  Following this, the author encourages parents to listen to their children in order to learn what is going on inside of their children’s brains, because adults do not often know.  After this the author encourages adults to talk to teach, not through lectures but through interactions that are conducted with a good deal of respect and curiosity.  The author then discusses the need to persuade and not coerce for long-term benefits in interaction and then the need to negotiate wisely and deal thoughtfully with what is non-negotiable.  The author then discusses how to mediate sibling rivalry by encouraging children to eventually be able to mediate their own disputes without violence.  The author closes by reminding the reader that they already knew much of if not all of what the author had been saying all along, and that nothing in this book is particularly new.  All of this takes about 200 pages, much of it is filled with the sort of dialogue that peppers books relating to conflict management.

So, the real mystery with this book is, if the book is made up of advice that is widely known and not particularly original, why is it that so few people actually apply the principles talked about here?  This mystery is related to a greater mystery, and that is why do people write so many books about how respect-based and persuasion-based authority works better than coercion but so many people refuse to practice such methods?  What sort of faith is it necessary to have to choose the way of persuasion rather than coercion?  This book is not necessarily a book about deep questions–it is rather practical and prosaic in its approach.  Yet the book provokes difficult questions by virtue of its acknowledgment that negotiation is known but not practiced, and that there are many people who, despite knowing how coercion tends to encourage rebellion and harm the relationship between parents and children, see no way to avoid the false dilemmas of giving in or digging in.  Given how such false dilemmas fill our existence when it comes to communication, why not start dealing with respect-based negotiations as early in life as possible, even if it is unsettling for people to deal with children that way.  It takes us long enough to learn how to negotiate and communicate well, why not start as early as possible?

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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8 Responses to Book Review: How To Negotiate With Kids

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