When I’m dealing with an armed person holding three people at gunpoint inside a store, I’m sometimes reminded of what it’s like to raise three teenage boys. I’ve got to be careful in both situations, because what I say in moments of high stress can be critical. My 31 years with the Sacramento Police Department were invaluable training for guiding a tense standoff to a peaceful resolution. Here’s what I learned, thanks to my boys, Christopher, Taylor, and Dylan, and all the armed and desperate people I’ve dealt with in northern California. And for more indispensable parental knowledge, be sure to check out The Single Best Way to Raise Emotionally Healthy Kids.
Always preserve the subject’s dignity.
The minute you’ve told them that they are a nonentity and has no power in the situation, you’ve lost them.
Never impose anything, but allow the subject to be a part of the decision-making process.
All the negotiator can do is lay options on the table and encourage the other party to do the right thing. For example, say something like, “You really have a choice on how you want this to come out. You can make this better or you can make this worse.”
Listen to the ranting and raving.
He or she is unloading stress and might be passing on some key information.
Don’t attempt to negotiate when the subject is upset.
Wait until he or she returns to what we call “a normal operating level.”
Be firm when meting out punishment, but secretly double the amount and then bargain downward.
When deciding on a term of grounding, for example, propose a period of two weeks and then let your kid talk you down to one week (which is what you wanted all along, of course), and you will have given them a feeling of control over their fate. And for more sterling parenting advice, learn The Secret Trick For Raising Healthy Children.
Larry Chavez is a former hostage negotiator with the Sacramento Police Department.
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