Our kids grow up being told they have to follow the rules (especially at school) and that ‘No, means no!’. Whilst we don’t want our kids to break the rules, we shouldn’t stop them from questioning the rules.
When it comes to money, this means questioning whether the price shown is the best price on offer. In a lot of cases, there are opportunities to negotiate and get a better deal.
As our kids grow up, being able to negotiate can save and make them a lot of money. For example, salaries can be negotiable, as can car prices and house prices. I appreciate that it’s hard to go into a shop and negotiate on their prices. Although there is a great story in this blog where they got a discount at a mini-market using a very smart negotiation tactic.
Teaching your kids how to negotiate is particularly important for parents with daughters like me. There is a lot of data to show that women are less likely to ask for a pay rise.
So, what’s in this blog?
A story to introduce your kids to negotiating
How you can use pocket money to train your kids to negotiate
The Orange (Negotiation) Game
Extra benefits of negotiating.
A story to introduce your kids to negotiating
One day Grandpa Jack decided he would set his grandchildren, Gail and Tony, a challenge. The challenge was to see who could grow the largest forest. He gave each of them 30 seeds to start with. Before they could start to grow their forest, they needed to buy some equipment. They each needed a spade, a watering can and some gardening gloves.
Tony went to the market first. He saw that he could get a spade for 6 seeds, a watering can for 4 seeds and gardening gloves for 5 seeds (15). This left him with 15 seeds remaining to plant. He knew that when his seeds were planted, they’d grow into trees which would produce more seeds.
Each day Tony would water his seeds and watch them start to grow. After a few weeks he saw 15 little trees appearing out of the ground. He was super excited. Whilst he felt he was doing a good job, he went to check to see how Gail’s forest was doing. To his surprise, he saw Gail had 20 small trees growing.
“How did you manage to get an extra 5 trees more than me?” asked Tony.
“After I had bought my spade for 4 seeds, my watering can for 3 seeds and my gardening gloves for 3 seeds (10), I had 20 seeds left” explained Gail.
“How did you manage to buy all those items for less seeds than me? I looked around the whole market and they were all priced at what I paid,” said a confused Tony.
Gail explained what she did in order to buy the items for less than Tony.
Buying the spade - Tactical Empathy
For the spade, Gail looked around the market and noticed all the people selling spades were selling them at the same price, 6 seeds. She decided to go to the seller who had the most spades to sell and said:
“Hi, I’m Gail. I love your spades and I see you are offering them at a generous price. It seems you are a passionate gardener who loves to see as many people as possible using your spades”.
The seller replied “That’s right, I love gardening and seeing people using my spades”.
“I’d love to use your spades for growing my very own forest but, unfortunately, the price of 6 seeds is beyond what I had planned to spend on a spade. How do you think I could get a spade for less seeds?”
The seller smiled and asked Gail how many seeds she did plan to spend on a spade to which she replied “4 seeds!”.
As the seller had come to like Gail, as it was clear they both had the same passion, he was willing to let her have the spade for 4 seeds, instead of 6.
Buying the watering can - Bulk Discount
Before Gail went to the market to buy the things she needed, she asked her friends and family if they were planning on buying a watering can in the near future. It turned out that Auntie Milly and her friend Thomas both needed a new watering can. With this knowledge, Gail went to the market to buy her watering can.
She said to the person at the market “Hi, I’m Gail. Your watering cans are displayed at a really good price. I see the price for one watering can is 4 seeds, how much would you sell them if I were to buy three watering cans?”.
As the market seller would be able to sell 3 watering cans at once, he was happy to instead sell them at a reduced price of 3 seeds each. Gail bought three watering cans and gave one to Auntie Milly and one to Thomas who were both really happy that they only had to pay 3 seeds rather than 4.
Buying the gardening gloves - Asking for a discount / Patience
Gail approached the lady selling the gardening gloves and said “Hi, I’m Gail, I’m looking to buy some gardening gloves. I see that you are selling them for 5 seeds. Before I look around the market to see if others are selling garden gloves, can I ask if 5 seeds is the lowest price you are willing to sell your garden gloves for?”
The lady said “As you’ve asked, I’d be happy to sell you the gloves for 4 seeds rather than 5”
Gail replied “That’s a very generous offer, I’ll go around the market and come back to you if I can’t find a lower price elsewhere”.
The seller then said “If you buy from me now, rather than going to others in the market, I will let you have the gardening gloves for just 3 seeds.”
Gail agreed to this as she was getting a very good deal.
Tony couldn’t believe it. He felt that the price shown on the items was the price he had to pay. He had never thought of asking for a lower price.
Whilst Tony was disappointed that he had lost the challenge to Gail, he was so pleased to learn about how he could negotiate in future to save spending more of his seeds. From that day onwards, Tony would always consider if there was an opportunity to ask for a lower price in order to keep more of his seeds.
Lessons from the story
Like many of my stories, I link seeds to being like money and the challenge to growing a forest. This is so kids can quickly learn that if they keep some of their seeds (save), and then plant those seeds (invest) then they will grow into trees which produce more seeds.
The key message is that negotiating on the price can, sometimes, help us keep more of our money. Gail uses a number of different tactics to help negotiate the price:
For the spade she uses tactical empathy - this means highlighting your understanding of what the seller is trying to achieve apart from just making money (a key tactic from the book ‘Never split the difference’ by former FBI negotiator Chris Voss).
For the watering can, Gail highlights that people are usually willing to give a bulk discount.
For gardening gloves, just simply asking for a discount / patience, i.e. being willing to talk away, leads to a price reduction.
In all cases, Gail introduces herself by name so that the seller feels like they are dealing with a real person rather than just a nameless person. This increases the chances of a person being willing to negotiate.
Different tactics are likely to work in different situations. The key is for kids to understand there are different tactics and, to practice using them. This is where giving your kids pocket money can help.
How you can use pocket money to train your kids to negotiate
If you don’t already know, I strongly recommend that parents give their kids pocket money so kids can make their own money decisions.
A lot of parents will give their kids pocket money for doing additional chores around the house. For those that do, why not instead of you setting the price for chores, get your kids to set a price and start a negotiation with them. See if they can get a better deal from you. It might be that they offer to do extra jobs for more money or they might simply just refuse to do it for such a little amount of money (i.e. call your bluff).
As mentioned in my blog, ‘How much pocket money should I give me kids?’, the amount of pocket money should be based on what they will start to pay for (instead of you buying those things directly). This can be a negotiation. For example, a starting point for the negotiation could be “I’ll give you £10 a week but you have to buy your own toys and casual clothes with that money”. Their job is to convince you to give them more money or for them to pay for less things themselves. This will be good practice for when they negotiate with their future bosses for a pay rise.
As your kids get older, help them think of starting their own mini-business. This will give them plenty of opportunities to practice negotiating (both in terms of buying and selling). You can learn more about kid-entrepreneurs in the link at the end of this blog.
It doesn’t just have to be about money. You can help encourage your kids to negotiate over T.V. time or snacks.
Example negotiation with my kids
My kids’ asked for some extra T.V. time the other day. The conversation went like this:
Kids: Dad, can we watch our program?
Me: Nope! Although, you can make me an offer.
Kids: You know you love giving us math's questions. We’ll do three of your math's questions after the program (great use of tactical empathy!)
Me: Interesting! OK but you do the questions before the program, and get them right!
Kids: We’ll do one question before and two after the program.
This simple exercise helps them to question whether a ‘no’ is a ‘hard no’ or there is scope to negotiate. It also helps them practice which tactics work and which don’t.
Granted, you need to make sure your kids are aware that they can’t always negotiate. You don’t want them getting into trouble at school for trying to make deals with their teachers. I can just imagine some kids saying “ Ms / Sir, I’ll do you a deal, if you let me miss history, I’ll do double P.E.”
The Orange (Negotiation) Game
The rules of this long-standing game are simple but can really help kids practice negotiating.
When there are two kids (siblings or when they are with friends), get them to negotiate over who gets an orange (you’ll need one orange).
Before you start, take one child away and tell them that they really need that orange to make some orange juice. Then take the other child away and say that they really need that orange so you can get the peel for some orange zest cakes.
They aren’t allowed to negotiate with promises or give away other items - they can only negotiate in terms of the orange.
Let them discuss for a set few minutes only and get them to agree on a final outcome.
It might be that one gets the whole orange. In a lot of cases, they will compromise and split the orange in half. Whilst this is a nice outcome, it’s not optimal.
The key is for them to find out why the other wants the orange. If they do this then they should get to the point where one gets all the juice and the other gets all the peel. This is a win-win.
I got my daughters to play this game. This is what happened after they voluntarily decided to share why each needed the orange:
The eldest (8) quickly offered the juice in exchange for the peel (super happy Dad!).
The youngest (6) didn’t accept straight away (slightly disappointed Dad).
The youngest said she needed all the juice and a little bit of the peel to make her orange juice special (super surprised Dad).
The eldest knew it wasn’t a fair deal but, as the set few minutes was running out, knew it was better than half-half so accepted (super impressed with the audacity of his youngest daughter Dad).
Extra benefits of negotiating
Training your kids to negotiate doesn’t just help them save and make money. There are other benefits too:
Understanding the competition - When we negotiate, we need to understand what is a reasonable price. This lends us to 'shop-around' for what others are selling the same item, or similar, for. This process alone can help save money (as we stumble across someone else selling it cheaper than we’ve seen elsewhere), even if we can’t negotiate the price lower.
Price versus Value - A lot of people believe that price and value are the same thing. Negotiating helps you consider the value of the item as you start to ask yourself “What is the highest price am I willing to accept? or “What price am I willing to walk away at?”
Understanding marketing - Companies are spending millions trying to get us to spend our money. The marketing teams are essentially negotiating with us through their offers. We might not have bought that pair of jeans but now they offer us 25% off in their summer sale we’ll buy them. The more our kids negotiate and understand the different tactics, the more they’ll understand what marketing teams are doing.
Important point about Integrity
When negotiating, it’s super important that your kids learn that they have to commit to their side of the deal. For example, my daughters said they’ll do maths questions after their program, but they could have decided not to do the questions after they watched their program (i.e. not do their side of the deal).
They did the questions as I told them that people will only want to deal with people who they believe have high levels of integrity.
The best definition of Integrity that I’ve heard is:
“Doing the right thing even when no one is looking!”
To open the discussion about integrity, you can ask your kids “What would you do if you were invisible for a day?”. You’re likely to get some interesting answers and opportunities to discuss why they shouldn’t want to do those things due to integrity.
Teaching our kids to negotiate can save them a lot of money in the future (especially when they are looking to buy a car or a house). It can also help them earn more, in terms of negotiating a better salary or negotiating with suppliers if they start their own business.
Try to introduce negotiating into different parts of your kids’ lives. This could be pocket money, T.V. time or treat snacks. The more they practice, the better they will get. Although, you need to make it clear when it’s not appropriate to negotiate, for example, during their school classes.
Negotiating can also help you reinforce the importance of showing empathy (understanding the other person's position) and integrity (doing the right thing, even when no one is looking).
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Thanks for reading!