Struggling with unruly children? Hostage negotiator shares his tips

Anybody who’s tried reasoning with a child will understand how, more often than not, logic plays no part

Eve Dugdale

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Anybody who’s tried reasoning with a child will understand how, more often than not, logic plays no part.

Indeed, those who’ve resorted to shouting at someone less than half their age in order to get their message across will appreciate that just speaking clearly isn’t enough.

But what else can you do other than explain what you need in simple terms?

Plenty of things, says Simon Horton.

As a hostage negotiator he may be more used to dealing with life or death situations, but Simon, who’s just written a book ‘The Leader’s Guide to Negotiation’ believes his techniques can be used just as well in domestic disputes.

From negotiating in front of a mirror to harnessing the power of touch, Simon, who also helps business leaders improve their performance in the boardroom, gave some tips to Britain’s MailOnline website.

Explaining how subliminal messages could help parents and partners alike to get their family members to do what they wanted, Simon told the Mail that learning to speak to people’s subconscious would help them unlock a world of power and influence.

Don't nag, negotiate to get what you want from your loved ones. (Shutterstock) kids
Don't nag, negotiate to get what you want from your loved ones. (Shutterstock) kids

A good trick is planting a command in a sentence he says. The meaning may be different but the underlying message would sink in.

He explains: “You could say: ‘I wonder who’s going to tidy the room. You can decide.’” says Simon.

“Or you could say, ‘The lounge is very tidy and your room is also looking nice today.’

"When your children end up tidying their room, they may think they’ve made a rational decision. But in actual fact it's you who has planted that subliminal message.”

As a teacher and mum to two-year-old Phoebe, Kate Wright is used to negotiating with children. She may not have been trained by a hostage negotiator but she already realizes the power of speaking to the subconscious.

She explains: “I sing a lot with my daughter. If she is getting angry or frustrated I pick a song from ‘Peppa Pig’ and sing it to her and she joins in. I sing ingredients of food as well to get her to eat them! My husband thinks we're mad because she sings them to him.”

Driving you crazy?

When it comes to school, Kate says she does all kinds to get her students to listen and do what she wants. She adds: “When I taught younger students I would do things to shock them. I had a drama class that didn't know how to shut up so I would do strange things to get their attention. Like lie on the floor or put a box on my head so they'd stop what they were doing and pay attention.

"I know I sound crazy and obviously there are the classics like talking really quietly so they have to listen carefully or talking to one student about how rude the rest of the class are being but I do find that kids need a bit of that plus the weird stuff!”

While it may be hard to bite your tongue when your child refuses to help you with the chores, it will help your cause to let it go wherever you can, says Simon.

Don't nag, negotiate to get what you want from your loved ones. (Shutterstock) kids
Don't nag, negotiate to get what you want from your loved ones. (Shutterstock) kids

“If you complain when they haven't done something, they will feel pressured and nagged,' explains Simon, who says the key to getting anyone to do what you want is positive reinforcement.

“This works for dog training and it can work on husbands and children too,” he says.

Certainly less nagging and more peaceful tactics were key methods used by Eve Smith’s mother when she was younger.

Mum of one Eve says her mother, who worked as a library assistant had a great technique for getting her way.

She explains: “My mum could always get me to do what she wanted. She rarely shouted and didn’t smack me but I knew that if I disobeyed her I would have to go to my room and read a boring book which she would test me on afterwards. If I failed any of the questions I would have to go back up to my room and study it some more.

“It was an excellent technique to use – not only are your children learning something but they’re realizing it’s essential they do as you say. I’ll definitely be trying it on my daughter when she’s older.”
Mum of two Kate Breitholtz is another mum who usually manages to control a situation without nagging.

She explains: “I expect my boys to follow instructions or to remember things, like putting their dirty clothes in the washing basket every day. I give them options of which I am happy with either outcome and I ask them in a calm voice showing them I am confident that they will do it and most of the time they do. However, I find the only sure-fire way to get them round to my way of thinking is by using humor. Getting whoever it is on side, smiling, making it clear we are a team that are joking around together to get things done. It works with the boys and probably would with my partner if I had the energy to keep it up that long!”

Another technique Simon advocates is touch. And while, mid-argument with your partner, a full blown hug would seem a little suspicious, any form of touch helps people come round to your way of thinking.

He told the Mail: “The underlying mechanism that makes touch such a powerful negotiation tool is that it in increases oxytocin levels in the blood stream.

“Oxytocin is our bonding chemical, which is naturally produced when women have a baby or boy meets girl.'

“Any touch increases oxytocin levels and the elbow is probably the safest place to do it!”