Confessions of a mediator

This isn’t the first blog in which I’ve held my hands up and admitted that I don’t always manage to practice what I preach! I doubt it will be the last. So hear comes another confession…

Confessions of a mediator Focus Mediation

My children M (age 9) and H (age 12), have always squabbled. Nothing unusual there – children bicker. However, in the last few months it’s really escalated. It’s progressed from; ‘mum he’s humming, mum he’s turned the T.V over, Mum he’s looking through the car window on my side of the car’ (I kid you not!) to ‘mum he pinched me, mum he pushed me, mum he’s trying to kick me…’ It’s got physical. The pushing and shoving is mutual but the rest is H to M. He has always been a gentle soul. M reminds me of a boisterous puppy and idolises his brother. H is behaving like a teenager a whole year earlier than expected! He is growing in confidence and trying to push boundaries to find out who he is. He can get frustrated and angry with his little brother. M gets upset as he can’t understand why his big brother doesn’t want to be his friend anymore. I’ve tried to explain to H how his younger brother feels and I have asked him to be kinder. It didn’t work. He believes I always take M’s side – evidenced by the fact I just did it again.

The brotherly conflict peaked

It culminated last week in a physical fight during a trip to the woods. We were with their friends and parents. M slapped H across the face leaving an angry red mark. M’s friends all agreed that H had been teasing him and had tripped him over. M’s friends laughed when he slapped his brother – I think partly from complete shock and also because this group of 9 year olds though H deserved it. So H has a very sore face and felt humiliated and M felt proud of himself for finally retaliating after months of provocation. The younger children received a telling off from their parents for laughing. I took the boys home whilst thinking that I couldn’t remember feeling more out of my depth as a mother.

Lecturing children and getting nowhere fast

I told M he should have called me over and not taken actions into his own hands. I told H off for taunting him and provoking him. I reminded them that they should support each other and be a friend to one another. I banned them from their gaming console (the most effective punishment in my armour) until they managed to behave better towards one another. Both felt hard done by and I wondered (naively) whether it might be a bonding experience. No such luck – they spent the rest of the day blaming each other for their plight.

A mediator who didn’t listen – a sackable offence!

I sat and contemplated the irony of a mediator who helps resolve conflict at work but who couldn’t manage it with her own children. Unfortunately I was missing some vital mediation ingredients – I was far from impartial and I had too much of a vested interest in the outcome. However, there was something I could do; I could actually start listening to my two boys who were both feeling unheard and frustrated.

I reflected on my past conversations with each of the boys and realised that I had been ‘talking at them’ for a while. I had forgotten to hear them. Listening carefully is how you gather information about what your child is thinking and feeling. Without listening any relationship will flounder. I had been too wrapped up in trying to maintain discipline and fix the problem. Listening effectively builds strong relationships and shows respect. Listening is always the first step in solving problems.

Drawing a line in the sand and opening my ears

I spoke to the boys individually and listened well. The longest conversation was with H. His feelings flooded out and amongst the things he told me (much of which must remain private) he said that it hurt him that I often gave in to M for a quiet life and just expected him to accept it. He felt that I always took M’s side and that I was quick to assume he was in the wrong. He felt M had picked up on this and was using it to his advantage. He gave plenty of examples and he had valid points. I checked I’d understand what he said and then I held my hands up. I explained he’s the oldest and therefore the Guinee pig – I’m learning as I go and I don’t always get this adult stuff right! For months I had asked him to be kinder to his brother but he didn’t seem to have any empathy towards him. Now that I had listened well, H told me that he knew he hadn’t been kind to M and he wanted to make amends. Over the next few days I watched the shift in their relationship. There was an immediate and obvious improvement. They began to enjoy each other’s company again. It became clear again to H how much his younger brother looked up to Him.

Kids ganging up on me – the equilibrium had been restored

M did something wrong a few days later and I told him off. H stuck up for him and told me I was being a bit harsh. He put his arm around his little brother and told him it would be alright. They will continue to squabble – I know that. However, I think the two of them (for now) are back on track again.

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: info@focus-mediation.co.uk for further information or to book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM). Read more about family mediation (including our client testimonials) at  www.focus-mediation.co.uk 

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