Choose Communication Not Sides | Teaching Self-Government

Choose Communication Not Sides

My daughter had one of her best friends over to play.  After playing for about 45 minutes, the friend came from the basement in tears to her mother.  She was really upset because she was having a hard time communicating with my daughter.

My friend tried to console her daughter and give her some advice about how to handle the situation.  The her daughter said, “Mom, I tried to talk to her about it, but she won’t listen to me.” 

The girls obviously didn’t know how to handle the problem they were having with each other, so I knew they needed someone to show them how to problem solve their situation by using good honest communication skills. 

After I gathered both girls and moms into the kitchen, I said, “Both of you girls are best friends and have a great relationship right?  So that means nothing is going to be worth ruining your friendship over.  Even parents have misunderstandings sometimes.  Even the two of us moms have had misunderstandings before.  But, adults know that if they don’t feel like their relationship with someone is how they would like it to be, then they need to go talk to the person and work out their differences.  Let’s see if we can work out whatever the problem is with you two right now.” 

I asked my daughter’s friend to tell her side of the situation.  Then I asked my daughter to explain what she understood about how her friend felt.  Next it was my daughter’s turn to tell her side of the situation.  Once I was sure both friends understood each other’s feelings, I said, “Do you think there is any way you could both work out what you want to do today so that each of you gets to do something you want?” 

At this point both my daughter and her friend said they thought they could compromise as long as they didn’t have to do what the other person wanted to do.” 

These responses surprised me so much.  We had just been through the whole situation and they seemed like they experienced a change of heart and still both girls didn’t want to do the activity the other girl wanted to do. 

I reminded my daughter that she knew how to disagree appropriately and suggested she give it a try.  Once she started disagreeing appropriately, her friend started disagreeing appropriately too.  After a good discussion, and assurance from their mothers that trying a new thing might not sound fun, but could be if you go into it with the right attitude, each girl decided to take turns choosing activities.  They had a wonderful day together!

I could have handled this situation differently.  I could have chosen not to get involved, leaving the weight of the situation, and frustration on my friend and her daughter. 

Another option could have been to look for the faults in my daughter’s friend’s story and defend my daughter.  I could have brought up all kinds of arguments to support or rationalize my daughter’s actions.  This option would have left a funny feeling in the whole day and my daughter’s friend relationship as well as my friend relationship with my friend. 

The other option could have been to choose to see that my daughter was not being kind to her friend or a good hostess, and pull her aside for a private, or public rebuke.  This option could have pleased our guests, but would probably made my daughter uncomfortable the rest of the day.  Her feelings would have impacted the friendship and the play date. 

After considering all of the above mentioned options, I knew the only right choice was to show both girls how to problem solve and communicate while at the same time respecting and preserving their relationship.  Any other option would have been choosing sides and prideful feelings. 

Taking a few minutes to have my own SODA and choosing to lovingly teach communication made all four women involved have closer relationships, increased respect, and a good memory. 

This situation also shows how a person can learn the four basic skills just by watching another person use them too.  Both of these girls will now remember they can disagree appropriately if they ever have any other problems in the future.