child development · Just for fun · parenting · top tips

5 Effective Hostage Negotiation Techniques I’ve Learned As a Toddler Parent

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Toddlerhood is so much fun! No, really – despite the title of this post, and despite what I might occasionally say after a particularly tricky evening or extra-early morning start – seeing our little baby turn into an opinionated, chatty toddler with a predilection for fire engines and double decker buses, a love of playing outside and a hatred of hats, has been awesome. However, toddlerhood does of course require a new set of parenting skills, one of which is tantrum management – a.k.a. conducting hostage negotiations with a toddler. So I thought it was time to share my top five hostage negotiation techniques that I’ve learned as a toddler parent…

5 Hostage Negotiation Techniques for Toddler Parents

1. Work out what they really want

When you arrive on the scene of a hostage situation, it’s not always immediately clear what the terrorists are actually after (at least, that’s what I’ve learned from watching Die Hard). Similarly, when your toddler has a meltdown in the middle of the kitchen floor after you offered them a cup of pineapple juice, the real cause of the meltdown is not necessarily clear. Shockingly, it might not be about the pineapple juice at all – perhaps your toddler is too hot, hungry, tired, teething, or maybe their cuddly monkey toy looked at them funny.

So whatever happens, remember: the target of the hostage-taker is not the hostage. The hostage is simply a bargaining chip which provides a means to an end. Similarly, the target of the toddler is not the tantrum; the tantrum is a bargaining chip…

2. Stay calm

Easier said than done. There’s nothing that has the propensity to make people quite so angry as being told to ‘stay calm’ in a stressful situation, and nothing quite so unconvincing as screaming “I AM calm!” in the middle of said situation.

Whether you’re conducting a hostage negotiation with a toddler or an armed terrorist, however, the principle is the same: stay calm, and try to avoid doing anything that could escalate the situation further. The priority of the hostage negotiator is to ensure the safety of the hostages. In the case of your toddler throwing a wobbly, weirdly, the hostage-taker is also themselves the hostage – and so the aim is to avoid them doing something daft and destructive, like throwing themselves on the floor and banging their head. In order to ensure the safety of your angry toddler, aim to remain calm and de-escalate. How, I hear you cry? Well…

3. Demonstrate tactical empathy

Former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss coined the term “tactical empathy” to describe the process of trying to understand your opponent on an emotional level and using that understanding to your advantage. What does that mean when conducting hostage negotiation with a toddler? Well, no matter how ridiculous it is that they are screaming the house down because the sun is too bright today, or because you gave them a snack bar when they asked for a snack bar, you have to try to see things from their perspective. I mean, the sun can be really bright, am I right? Instead of telling them they’re wrong for how they’re feeling (“it’s silly to be so upset about some pineapple juice”), which is negative and thus only likely to escalate the situation, aim to simply acknowledge what they’re trying to communicate: that they’re upset.

Getting your toddler on-side by acknowledging their feelings with some fairly hilarious sentences “I understand you’re sad because I gave you a snack bar”, “I’m sorry you’re upset that a bird flew past”, “I can see that you don’t want to wear your shoes today” can actually help to defuse some (not all… definitely not all) tantrums in their early stages, giving you the chance to hug it out and move on to the next stage of our toddler negotiation…

4. Play for time

Trained negotiators are told never to argue with a hostage-taker and never say a straight ‘no’ to a demand. Instead, the negotiator should use delaying tactics (“I’ll look into it”, “I’ll see what I can do”) or make a counter-offer, while maintaining a positive, upbeat attitude, reassuring the hostage-taker that everything will eventually work out peacefully. This is because the longer a hostage situation lasts, the more likely it is to end peacefully.

Of course, it’s difficult to completely avoid saying no to the many demands of an unreasonable toddler, but you can think about how you’re saying it and aim to avoid escalating a tantrum with a flat ‘no’. For instance, instead of “no, you can’t go in the garden now, it’s raining”, try “we can go play in the garden when the rain stops”. Here’s a fun article with ideas on how to avoid constantly saying ‘no’ to your toddler.

5. Use distraction techniques

Distraction techniques are often key in the management of real-life hostage situations. One approach is to focus the hostage-taker on micro-management of the details of their demands (What type of helicopter do you want? What gender should the pilot be? Would you like your $30 million in fifty dollar notes or should we throw in some twenties?) to buy time for the authorities to find out more about the situation. Another approach is to aim to keep the hostage-taker distracted at the point at which the authorities are moving in to free the hostages, as used in the Iranian Embassy siege in 1980.

When conducting hostage negotiation with a toddler, a more simplistic distraction approach is generally required (and hopefully you haven’t actually had to call in a SWAT team). After a certain point, they are often just crying because they’re crying, and suddenly bursting into a cheerful rendition of “The Wheels on the Bus”, unexpectedly pulling a silly face or initiating some naughty antics by Mr BunBun can be enough to get them to forget all about whatever the problem was in the first place.

Hostage Negotiation with Toddlers: Your Tips

So there you have it… My top tips for hostage negotiation with toddlers. I’d love to hear from other mamas and papas about how you handle the magic of tantrums! Let me know in the comments. Or why not check out my blog post on free and cheap outdoor play activities with your toddler?

Just for fun · pop culture · top tips

7 Simple Ways To Avoid Having An Accidental Party At The Office

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Boris Johnson has announced we’ll all be going back to normal – and therefore back to the office – very soon. So I’m sure I can’t be the only person who’s concerned about the possibility of accidentally ending up having an enormous office party, at a time when I’m actually supposed to be busy getting the year-end reporting finished off.

Not only are accidental office parties really bad for productivity, but they can also result in negative publicity if they happen in the midst of national coronavirus lockdown restrictions. Not to mention that they create a lot of extra work for housekeeping staff, who really don’t deserve to have to clean vomit off the boardroom ceiling more than once in any working week.

So in my selfless drive to help others, I’ve put together this handy guide, setting out a number of simple ways to avoid having an accidental office party. Whatever your reason for wanting to avoid a party in the workplace – social anxiety, Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, or just an uncontrollable tendency to tell colleagues you love them after half a shandy – this easy guide is the one for you.

7 Simple Ways To Avoid Having An Accidental Office Party

1. Protect Yourself Against Cake Ambush

When entering an office area, make sure to flatten yourself against the wall and, if possible, take cover behind a filing cabinet or large confidential waste bin. This will give you time to scan the immediate area for possible concealed baked goods and beat a hasty retreat if necessary.

This is doubly important if it is your birthday.

2. Buy A Dictionary

Preventing a cake ambush is one thing, but it can be really difficult to avoid having an office party if you don’t actually know what a party is. I myself once thought I was attending a workplace strategy meeting, only to discover afterwards that it had in fact been an illegal psychedelic rave. Once I familiarised myself with the definition of terms like “rave”, “party”, and “working hours”, I found it so much easier to avoid this kind of unfortunate confusion going forward.

3. The ratio of laptops to bottles of wine should be at least 1:1

Self-explanatory, really. It can’t be a party if there’s a laptop nearby.

This guy’s getting it right

4. Don’t Accidentally Bring Your Entire Family To Work

As the old saying goes: if you’ve completed the mandatory recruitment e-training module, you can choose your colleagues, but you can’t choose your family. I discovered recently that traditionally in Western office culture, you don’t bring your family to work with you. Apparently doing this can risk blurring the lines between ‘work time’, ‘family party’ and ‘drunken brawl about what Uncle Pete said about Auntie Suzie’s shoes ten years ago’.

Apparently, this applies even if your Auntie Marie is really good with Excel and wears a pantsuit, so I’ve now taken to checking the boot of my car in the mornings before setting off to work, just in case one of my extended family has squirrelled themselves away in there. Again.

5. Avoid Putting Up Party Decorations

If you’re not supposed to be having a party, try to avoid putting up enormous party decorations outside the front of your office, as this may inadvertently give the wrong impression.

No Christmas parties here

6. Get the Neighbours On Side

Remember that if anyone is likely to report an accidental party to the police – or take incriminating photos of an informal garden-based work meeting with wine and a cheeseboard and then leak the photos to the tabloids – it’s likely to be your neighbors. If you think there is any risk whosoever that your quarterly leadership team briefing might turn into a drunken bunfight, it may be best to invite your neighbours along to the meeting, just in case.

And make sure the cheeseboard is good.

7. Just Believe

Last but not least: if the worst happens and you find yourself caught in the middle of an unexpected party at the office, don’t worry – it’s not too late. Just ignore what your eyes, ears, and possibly nose are telling you, because if you truly believe that you’re at a work meeting, then no amount of prosecco, cheeseboards, feather boas, buffet catering, or drunken fumbling in the stationary cupboard can prove you otherwise.

If for some bizarre reason other people suggest that your work meeting looks a lot like a party, just insist it’s a free-form, deep-dive brainstorming session to pivot the organisational approach to holistically promoting synergy in the customer journey.

As long as no one understands what you’re saying, it’s very difficult for them to prove you wrong.

Your top tips to avoid office parties:

After the embarrassment of Partygate, it’s not just politicians and senior civil servants who are keen to avoid accidental workplace parties. If you have any tips of your own, please add them in the comments! Or alternatively if you love this kind of highly nonsensical political commentary, why not check out my blog post on why Boris Johnson and Joe Exotic from Tiger King are basically the same person?