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Should We Teach Kids to Negotiate?

Topics: Negotiation
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When did you participate in your first negotiation? Think way back, long before your first salary negotiation when were getting your career off the ground. Do you remember negotiating as a kid — maybe lobbying for a later bedtime, for example?

If so — and if your parents listened to your case, before making a determination — you might have learned some valuable negotiating skills. It turns out that giving kids some practice with negotiations as children could do them a world of good later when they’re launching their careers.

Being Willing to Negotiate Pays Off

It’s important to negotiate. Negotiating your way to an increase of just a few thousand dollars early on could add up to more than a million dollars more in total earnings over the course of your career. Remember, you don’t just get that money the year you negotiate the increase; every time you get a percentage increase, it will be based off of the negotiated salary, not the first offer. That difference really adds up over time.

But, despite the huge financial gains negotiation brings, a lot of folks don’t participate. Data collected for PayScale’s Salary Negotiation Guide shows that 43 percent of workers have never negotiated pay in their current field. Women and millennials are often especially keen to avoid the salary negotiation table. The reasons behind this are complex and hint at larger societal issues. Still, we have to do a better job of helping our young people arm themselves with this crucial skill.

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It Gets Much Easier With Practice

One of the main arguments behind the concept of negotiation parenting (a technique where parents talk through decisions with children rather than just authoritatively enforce rules) is that it gives young people some practice with these skills. The idea is that these experiences will help them to effectively, and confidently, negotiate later in life.

We know that practice is an important part in building any skill. If children are raised in an environment where they aren’t able to practice sharing their opinions, needs, hopes, etc., the experience could have damaging effects.

If you think back to your own experiences of salary negotiation, for example, you’ll likely recognize that it got easier over time. We sharpen our skills through practice. Why not help kids get some experience while they’re young?

Negotiating Is an Essential Skill, Best Developed Early

Childhood should be a time when kids get some practice doing the tough things they’ll need to do as adults, but with the aid of guidance and support. Parents and teachers are meant to pass on their wisdom and teach and train the younger generation, not simply make decisions for them. The nice thing about trying stuff out as a kid is that the stakes aren’t as high as they’d be for an adult. So, you can learn the lesson in a safe and less dramatic way.

For example, many kids learn to not be rude to friends when they experience a negative consequence for doing so. Maybe the friend leaves the playdate earlier than expected. As difficult as that experience may be, it’s much easier than never learning that lesson, leaving the negative trait unchecked, and having a lot of difficulty making friends in high school, college, and even beyond as a result.

The same basic principle is true for learning how to negotiate. Kids should gain practice with this skill while they’re young and the stakes aren’t so high. They’ll be seasoned pros by the time they’re ready for serious negotiations that have real and life altering consequences.

We’re learning more and more about the negative consequences of helicopter parenting. When we remove obstacles for kids rather than teaching them how to navigate them, we aren’t really doing anyone any favors. In fact, there are a lot of reasons why helicopter parenting could actually hold them back professionally further down the road.

Instead, teaching kids how to communicate effectively, and even how to negotiate with another person regarding something they need or want, could help them learn valuable skills that will serve them later in life. It’s essential to nurture independence in children, and to help them learn to be confident and capable adults — the kind that can build fulfilling careers. And that takes practice.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you teach your kids to negotiate? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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