The #1 mistake parents make when arguing with kids is denying their feelings.
Eric Barker stashed this in Diabolical Plans For World Domination
Don’t Deny Their Feelings.
The FBI has the bank surrounded. But the robbers have taken hostages. It’s a tense standoff and the bad guys are demanding food be sent in. They say they’re hungry.
The hostage negotiator lifts the phone and says, “Oh, stop it. You just ate. Quit complaining and just cut it out!”
Um, no. An FBI negotiator would never do that. But parents do it with their kids all the time. And the result is often more screaming, more tears, and more hysteria. What’s the problem here?
Denying their feelings.
Now as a parent you can’t be overly permissive and give a kid everything they want. But a hostage negotiator wouldn’t do that either — maybe the bad guys get the food when they ask for it and maybe they don’t. But negotiators wouldn’t say, “You’re not hungry. Cut it out!”
Of course, parents have to deny actions (“No, Billy, we should not see what happens if we use the weedwacker in the living room.”) But parents often take it a step further and deny what a child is feeling.
Human beings don’t like this. I don’t like this. You don’t like this. What’s the typical reaction when you tell an angry person to calm down? “I AM CALM!!!”
And that’s an adult. Do you expect a kid to have more control over their emotions than a full grown person? I didn’t think so.
For more tips from FBI hostage negotiators on how to get what you want, click here.
Here’s what parenting specialists and FBI hostage negotiators say can help you deal with out of control kids:
- Listen With Full Attention: Everyone needs to feel understood. The big mistake is thinking kids are any different.
- Acknowledge Their Feelings: Paraphrase what they said. Don’t say you understand, show them you do.
- Give Their Feelings A Name: “Sounds like you feel this is unfair.” It calms the brain.
- Ask Questions: You want to resolve their underlying emotional needs, not get into a logical debate.
Certainly there are going to be situations where you don’t always have the time (or the patience) to go through all the steps. It’s not easy. But by listening and focusing on feelings you can make a big difference.
And these principles can work with everyone in your life. Most human needs and feelings are universal.
In fact, clinical psychologist Al Bernstein recommends talking to every angry person like they’re a child:
People say to me all the time, “You mean I have to treat a grown-up like a three-year-old?” I say, “Yes, absolutely.”
Feelings are messy and so we avoid them. But when it comes to the ones we love we often forget that, in the end, feelings are really all that matter.
I don't have kids, but I wonder... kids didn't actually have tantrums in public nearly as often when I was a kid, and I don't think it was because their parents were validating their feelings -- au contraire. The difference between an FBI negotiator and a parent is that the former will only have one interaction with any given felon so s/he is only thinking about the most expedient way to solve TODAY'S problem. Parents have to at least theoretically think long-term.
Parents don't just have to think long term. They also have to negotiate every single day.