Parents… you can’t always live with them, and you certainly can’t live without them. I mean, who else is going to bring you your favourite snack when you’re sick or need a pick-me-up after a difficult day?
Who else is going to upgrade their mobile phone contract and give you their old iPhone, only because you’ve been asking for a new phone for months? Asking for certain things from one’s parents can come easily, but asking for more freedom to spend with friends or doing activities that take you away from home… now THAT can be challenging.
As a teenager, I struggled to properly communicate the importance of being allowed to go out or spend time with my friends, and combined with my parents’ often strict nature regarding time away from home, it didn’t always make for a great relationship dynamic between us during those years. There was a lot of arguing, tears and doors being slammed in a huff when I couldn’t get my way.
Just before my twenties however, I understood a bit more as to why they were hesitant to allow me more freedom, and I eventually learned how to negotiate better regarding free time. It did wonders for our relationship. Bear in mind that just because I was nearing 20-years old didn’t mean there was no longer a curfew and that I could do whatever I wanted.
Below, I’ll share some pointers that will hopefully assist any readers who are planning to broach the subject with their folks soon:
- Set up a specific time for the conversation
Respectfully ask them when they’ll have time to sit down and discuss something with you. They may immediately think you’re about to spring some bad news on them (parents tend to stress out quickly when it comes to their kids). Assure them that that’s not the case, that you simply want to discuss something important to you as a young person.
Remember, nobody likes having a serious topic casually thrown their way, as it doesn’t really allow them the time to get into a good headspace, where they’re open to really listening, without letting a bad mood or being too busy affect how they’re going to react.
- A positive, open and honest dialogue
Start the conversation by thanking them for making the time to talk. Then you can start off with something along the lines of, ‘I’ve been giving this subject a lot of thought, and although I’m really grateful for the time I have away from schoolwork, house chores, church and spending time with family, I could really do with a little bit more freedom (spending time with friends, playing games, going out etc.) What are your thoughts?’
- Don’t rush the conversation or get defensive.
Even if it seems the conversation may not be going in your favour, don’t rush to answer them back or get upset or defensive. Listen attentively to their feedback. Tell them that you understand the concerns they may bring up. Most times, parents are afraid that their kid’s schoolwork will suffer if they spend too much time playing games, watching movies or going out. They may also be scared for your safety when you leave their home, and are out of their sight.
- Negotiate, compromise, win!
After they’ve expressed their thoughts and possible concerns, lay out for them exactly what you want in terms of more freedom. For example, tell them you’d like to have one day of the weekend to spend with friends, and that you’ll always tell them well in advance if there are plans to sleep over or go to a party. Assure them you’ll always be responsible wherever you may be, always be vigilant and never wander off alone when you’re out in public, that you’ll check in with them via text so they always know your whereabouts, and always be home on time. That last one is super important!
They may want to negotiate on these, specifying times and days etc. Once again, listen to them without becoming defensive, and compromise where you can, so you can reach a point where you’re both happy with the results of the discussion.
One of the most important fundamentals of a parent/ child relationship is trust. They need to be able to trust that you’ll stick to what was agreed, and you need to trust that they’ll do the same. So you’ll need to work at keeping your end of the deal, always. Never stray from what was agreed, and don’t let your schoolwork or your relationship with them be negatively affected as a result of them allowing you more freedom.
If you can stick to this, they’ll see that giving you more independence was a good thing, and will be more open to the same or similar conversation the next time it may come around.
Tell us: how do you negotiate with your parents – or other family members – successfully?