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Conflict Resolution Tips and Blog

Apologies Are Important

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Over a decade ago, I was sitting in McDonald’s (yes McDonald’s… hey I was tired, no judging) with my six year old son and seven year old niece after a long and wonderful day in Philadelphia. I was watching the time as they laughed and gleefully discussed the day’s events.

We had driven from New York to witness our cousin’s entrance into college dorm life and it was thrilling for them. An accomplishment they would one day achieve was happening to a close family member, a road trip adventure and a chance for the three of us to bond sent them into an endless talk-fest. I loved watching them.

These two weren’t just cousins. They were encased in a magical friendship, reveling in shared memories and I was watching them and the clock.

I can drive anywhere but it is not my thing. So as much as I was relishing the moment, my anxiety was growing and I wanted to hit the road. Finally, they finished and we (really me) rushed to the car. They were lagging way behind caught up in a conversation that sent them into fits of laughter that caused them to fall behind even further.

“Hurry up! You two are getting on my last nerve. I am sorry I brought you!” I yelled. Then I hear a painful “awwwww” like a balloon deflating coming from my son. I stopped and turned around to see two hurt, disappointed and confused little faces.

They were crushed… I’ve failed.

“I thought you wanted us to come,” my son painfully whispers. Somewhere from deep in my spirit, my commitment to transparent parenting takes over and I hear myself saying. “I’m sorry, I’m nervous about driving back so late because I’m tired and instead of telling you, I yelled at you. I am actually glad you came. I love your company.”

“Oh.” Sighs of relief from both. “We can understand that. I’ve been scared. I’ve been tired,” my niece chimed in. “I’ve yelled at someone when I was tired,” my son continued giving me a knowing look. “Yeah, that can happen,” my niece sympathetically declared.

Phew!

I’m a better parent now and they are wise little sages. As I was relishing this deep moment, we hurried to the car. The ride back was filled with music and uncontrollable laughter from the back seat and then it started to rain.

“Be quiet you two!!” I yelled to the backseat. The laughter was shattered and I felt too comforted by the silence to apologize again. This was the time in my life when I realized that apologies are hard but they are important.

Apologies are important to me because I only received one apology from my mom my entire childhood and it was so foreign to me I just stared in silence.

Apologies are important to me because as this slice of my life demonstrates, we are humans who are capable of making mistakes especially when fear abounds.

Apologies are important to me because I have seen the same two words mend the smallest infractions and the largest deeply held hurts.

Apologies are important to me because from CEO’s to government officials, from parents to lovers, from young people to elders, far too many of us are bad at apologizing. So bad, in fact, it takes more than this one piece for me to address it.

Stay tuned for my list of “Seven Twisted Ways To Apologize” next week.

Let me hear from you if you have ever received a twisted apology. You know the kind of apology where they said the words but there’s something just so wrong about the way they delivered it.

If you reach out to me on my website, I’ll try to include it.
 
 
 
 
 
*If you are experiencing issues with the website, feel free to contact me immediately.

What’s a Parent Supposed To Do?

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By now I am certain many people have heard about and perhaps seen the video of Baltimore mom, Toya Graham using any means necessary to keep her 15 year old son from throwing rocks at police officers during the Baltimore protests (www.cbsnews.com/news/baltimore-mother-toya-graham-on-why-she-smacked-son-i-dont-want-him-to-be-a-freddie-gray/)

When I first saw the video, I imagined the intense fear that had risen up in her. To think that her teenage son had placed himself in the ultimate of harms way. The thought that her son could be killed right in that moment left her with no other choice but to control the situation.

I can’t imagine exactly what I would do if it were one of my sons but I did comment to several people that I would’ve wanted to hear his reasons for doing that and I would have had an open conversation with him beforehand. I was certain that having constant open and honest dialogue could have either prevented him from going to throw rocks or allowed her to take him out of the situation without hitting him.

But this is where it gets interesting. When I looked into her back story, I found that she had in fact listened to him, talked with him, reinforced the values she has been teaching all six of her children and then told him not to go. She even had her daughter who intends to be a police officer talk with him. But he went anyway.

So… What’s a mother to do?

How many of us have been there? I have. We use our best non-violent technique, which for many of us is a clear, decisive departure from our parents’ methods. We work it.

Then our child looks up at us with that “don’t give me that crap” look, or worse keeps having that tantrum or completely ignores us. What’s a parent supposed to do?

It seems easy in that moment to fall back on the habitual techniques ingrained in us by our parents. Many of these are cultural norms passed down from generation to generation. Even Toya Graham said that hitting her son was not what she wanted to do but it was certainly within her reach in her toolbox. Even I, Ms. Conflict Resolution have found myself yelling at the top of my lungs at one of my sons, just as my mother did to me. Much as I hated it when it was done to me, there are times when it easily slips out without any challenge or questioning.

That is the joy and the frustration of parenting, even our best techniques can fail in the most heated moment. All the more reason why our skills and techniques should be questioned and challenged by us. Conscious parenting needs to be fluid, binding both introspection and invention. Toya Graham’s experience raised a cry from many for “back to old school parenting.” In other words, good for her. After all, there’s nothing that a good old fashioned spanking won’t cure.

See Ylonda Gault Caviness’s recently released book, “Child, Please: How Mama’s Old School Lessons Helped Me Check Myself Before I Wrecked Myself.” Others cried for an end to what they called “barbaric practices.” It’s time to leave that behind and go new school.

As much success as I have had with my “new school approach”, my sons are 19 and 14 and we have a great open, respectful, noisy relationship. It is in fact challenging to keep the new school going. Sometimes I want to take the easier approach and fall back old school and declare, “because I said so. End of discussion!” To keep it 100, as the kids say, sometimes I do. But most days my style is “new school with an old school chaser.”

I have learned a lot of new skills that take me away from the traditional parenting techniques of my African American, “I’m a black mom so don’t even try it” culture. But some of those skills are still in my toolbox, buried underneath the new stuff, but still there. It’s hard out here for parents.

Everyday I try to consciously choose the most effective techniques for strengthening my relationship with my sons and teaching me to be a better me. Toya Graham, I salute you for making conscious choices, evaluating and standing by them in the face of national scrutiny (even Oprah, queen of promoting new school parenting, called to congratulate her on going old school) and for opening up an important discussion.
 
 
 
*If you are experiencing issues with the website, feel free to contact me immediately.

Real Life Conflict Has Become More Television than Reality Television

real life conflictI have teenage sons and a part of their world is watching videos uploaded to social media sites. More and more, these videos are of real life conflicts that have captured the attention of tweens, teens and adults all over the globe. With the ushering in of “everyone has a camera and is recording so make it good” era, conflict is available entertainment 24/7.

For those not out there making television, a large number are secretly getting their “conflict fix” from Reality TV. Just this week, I was in a school where some staff members sheepishly revealed their Reality TV “crushes.”

Having had my own adventure with national television, many years ago I was one of five finalists for Nick at Nite’s first Funniest Mom In America contest. It was one of the best cocktail mixtures of good times and hard work I have ever experienced. However, much like the night after too many yummy cocktails, when the show aired, it didn’t play out as I remembered. There was so much editing that happened. Such is the way of Reality TV. As it becomes more scripted, the conflicts more premeditated and the editing more skillful, much of its audience is turning to real life. Ironic, since this is what Reality TV is touted as representing.

What is a real life conflict resolver to do? Should I tell my sons “stop watching that crap! I have taught you better than that?” I’ve tried. It’s all too exciting for that and they have to discover what the appeal is for themselves and then make their own choices. Should I run out into the streets with my own camera and film myself helping people delve into their souls to figure out why they are responding the way they are to their conflict? I’m pretty sure most people would get tired of it after the first couple of videos unless I got punched out.

So what is the answer? I don’t think there has to be one, but I would like to offer a possible response. Conversation. Real life, honest conversation with no judgment, just listening for understanding and responding from a place of compassion. Conversation that goes deep. Deep into childhood wounds, cultural norms, learned behavior, gender roles, religion and repressed souls. Deep into the why’s of responding to each other by wounding silently, verbally and physically.

My love and admiration goes out to my fellow conflict resolvers who are hosting those conversations from the living rooms to the boardrooms. Now let’s go deeper. We need national conversations on the really tough stuff that keeps us searching for ways to bury what we are really feeling. Let’s make conflict less about Reality TV and Real Life video making and more about Real Life-long Conversation.

I am hosting a series of conversations in the Fall. If you want to be a guest on my Webinar Series, then let’s connect. Until then…..

Be Well and Go Deep!