In our school the kids are given a lot of tools for problems solving. They're taught to speak up when they don't like what someone does, they're taught how to apologize, they're taught how to talk through problems, and they're really quite good at it. It's quite impressive. I often think that there a lot of adults I know that could use some of those skills.
As a result of all this work we put into teaching these skills, after recess I sometimes have two or three kids come to me and say they need to solve a problem. Sometimes I get involved, and sometimes I just let them solve it.
The other day there was one that I decided to get involved with - mostly because there were a couple kids who are often needing to solve problems. It was interesting to participate.
Basically, two of the children didn't like it that another one stomped off when they came to join the game. When I talked to the stomper it turns out she doesn't like how one child, who had come to join the game, plays. In the stomper's words, this girl is bossy and controlling and likes to be the center of attention. The stomper said that it's just no fun when she joins the game because everyone else's ideas don't count anymore. I thought it was quite an astute summation of the problem.
We tried to talk about it. I encouraged the stomper to try to frame her concerns in a positive light: "I would enjoy playing with you if you let me choose the game sometimes."
The bossy one really didn't get it. She wanted the stomper to apologize for stomping off. I tried to help her see that perhaps there was a reason someone would stomp off and that she might want to consider that. She didn't get it. She isn't very good at looking at things from another's perspective. Hopefully that will come in time. Whenever the stomper tried to explain the reasons she didn't like playing with this girl the response was, "I do not do that."
It was a really tricky problem to solve. There was no convincing this girl that the things she does might be hurtful to her relationships. The Stomper was absolutely not willing to play with her because in her experience the girl absolutely does do the things she dislikes. She had a multitude of examples to back her argument up. What to do. We never did come to a good solution, except to decide that they don't enjoy playing together. Not everyone does.
I've watched this same thing unfold with adult relationships in my life. It's interesting to me when people have the courage to say, "Listen. I don't like it when you...." and the response is that they're wrong and how dare they misunderstand their intentions.
It really makes me reflect on how well do I really listen. Am I willing to hear it when people say I'm in the wrong? Am I willing to speak up when things hurt me? Do I think it's worth speaking up? Do I believe something will really change?
All these things really affect relationships. If we can't problem solve, relationships can't grow. The kids this past week decided they just wouldn't play together. I thought that was unfortunate. I thought they could find a way to really hear each other and play together nicely - but then again, not everyone has to play together. So maybe it's okay.
I try to not do that with relationships in my life. I don't believe in cutting people off. However, free agency is a bummer sometimes. You can't always control what the other person does. When you try to solve a problem and the tables get turned and suddenly you're the bad guy. When you're met with accusations of being misunderstanding and judgmental it's not easy to solve the problem. Just like the girl in my class, who couldn't see how what she does hurts people, sometimes you can't fix the problem if the other party won't accept that they might have made a mistake. Sometimes, to some people, being right is more important than the relationship.
Life is tricky sometimes. It has all been a good reminder to me though to self-reflect on whether or not I'm really listening to others, or just waiting to talk.