A former police negotiator and parent shares some wisdom.
Define what is not negotiable
What is the Achilles heel of any parent? The paralyzing affection that seizes them whenever they’re faced with tearful pleas that sound logical. But we mustn’t forget that “the relationship parents have … also requires saying ‘no’ sometimes,” according to Combalbert.
“It is vital to determine what is non-negotiable, the rules that should be explained, but must never be questioned,” says Combalbert. In matters of cordiality, safety, respect of others, and Mass attendance, each family has its own set of rules, but whatever the non-negotiable rules are in your family, they must be clearly articulated by the parents and clearly explained to the children.
Taking time to explain the rules
Does this mean that you can bend some rules? Yes, but “negotiating is not yielding,” offers Combalbert. “Negotiate on the style, but not the substance. ‘You must clean your room’ can become ‘You may clean your room before going out to play.’”
Finally, negotiating with children doesn’t mean you can provoke them or wash your hands of all responsibility. On the contrary, taking time to explain the rules and determine how children will be held accountable means answering the questions kids may have. This productive exchange helps avoid crisis, reinforces parental authority, and protects everyone from tyranny. This is the peaceful arsenal that no force (no matter how cute) can oppose!
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