It was a Wednesday morning, and I was dutifully going through the mom routine of making sure my kids were fed, dressed, and actually wearing sweaters, because doggone it, it’s freezing outside and it’s not even November yet. The goal of said morning routine is to make sure they are ready to leave the house for school in a relatively peaceful and timely manner. I had my morning groove rocking in full effect, which looks like soft praise and worship music playing, morning checklist out and visible, and school bags packed the night before. See my blog post:
When all of a sudden, breaking my peaceful morning mojo came a blood curdling scream from the bathroom. “Katherine! You uuusseeddd my toothbrush! Aghhh!” Well, there went my utopic version of my morning routine aspirations for the day. This statement was immediately followed by, “I DID NOT! That’s MY toothbrush!” Then, “It is not! Mine is the pink one, yours is blue and mine is WET! That’s so GROSS!” Followed by, stomping and loud grunting/screaming noises by said offender as she retreated into the other room to dissolve in a pile of tears.
Yep. That was my “peaceful” morning. More like my morning was falling to “pieces”. So I did what every normal mother would do. I began fantasizing about running out the back door to an awaiting private jet piloted by John Travolta (from the Grease days) who was ready to fly me to Bora Bora where my over-the-water bungalow stocked with a myriad of fruit juice drinks awaited me. And then I snapped out of it.
I did however, in a calm voice, explained to each of them that we would come up with a solution and talk about it in a civilized manner once everyone had calmed down. Right now, their job was to finish getting ready so we could get to school before it was time for lunch.
After the huffing and stomping subsided, and the focus went from the falsely accosted toothbrush to our puppy who, thankfully likes to do goofy things at just the right moment, we successfully made it into the car.
Now I had them. You know what I mean, moms and dads. The car is our power play. The kids are strapped down, and locked into a moving vehicle that if they try to escape will cause extreme bodily harm. They are at our mercy. (Evil laugh here.)
But in all seriousness, as much as I dislike situations that cause chaos and disruption in our family; I look at them as learning opportunities. This was a perfect chance to reinforce much needed skills of communication, problem solving, and compromise. And I do this A LOT with my girls. I want them to know how to handle conflict, and be able to communicate their side of the story. More importantly, I want them to learn to listen to the other person’s side of the story and solve problems through compromise.
This is how I typically mediate these types of conversations:
First I state the problem using “I” statements.
“Girls, I can see that there is some confusion about which toothbrush is yours in the bathroom cabinet. Is that correct?” The response from the backseat is often the offended jumping down the offender’s throat again which I immediately try to stop. I have found that if I can keep my voice calm and maintain that calm in the conversation it helps A LOT. Once we are all on the same page and each person has stated what the problem is then I move onto a question.
“How did that make you feel when (whatever the offense was) happened?”
I lay down clear guidelines that all parties are held accountable to, and those are: respect for the person speaking, eye contact, and no interrupting. After each person, including the offender, has had a chance to share their feelings then it’s time for question number two.
“What would be a good solution so that (XYZ problem) doesn’t happen again?”
Those same guidelines of respect come into play, and each person takes a turn sharing an idea that they feel would help rectify the situation. This often takes time and usually the first ideas are pretty unrealistic, but I help guide the conversation and show the girls where each one can give a little so that ultimately THEY decide on a final plan. Did you catch that? I said, THEY, decide on the plan. Do I help direct and maybe throw a few suggestions to give them ideas that I know will be successful? Sure! But they are taking ownership in the plan so therefore, they are invested in it and the outcome.
Then lastly, we complete the loop. By that, I mean each person apologizes and asks the other for forgiveness.
Apologize and Ask Forgiveness
Don’t forget that last part! The forgiveness piece is KEY!! Start teaching your kids the importance of not only asking for forgiveness, but also giving forgiveness. Even if they don’t feel the forgiveness in their heart at that very moment, even speaking the words out loud, “I forgive you”, is healing.
Especially in the world we live in, one that is terribly divided and hurting from so much hate and anger, start teaching your children how to love one another. Learning to love one another during conflict begins with stating the problem, respectfully listening to both sides, coming up with a solution that is full of compromise, and then apologies and forgiveness.
You may be wondering how the whole toothbrush saga turned out. The girls decided that they each needed their own shelf in the bathroom cabinet so there was no confusion over which toothbrush belonged to who in the communal toothbrush cup. How did that affect me? It meant an immediate trip to Target to buy shelf organizers, two matching cups, and alas, two clean toothbrushes.
I was happy to take one for the team.