When to Mediate–When to Judge

28 Mar

No doubt, many mediators are also parents, and finding that balance between helping your children “work things out” and “judging” who is right and who is wrong…well, let’s just say it’s not always easy!

On a good day, I take the time to mediate the disagreements at home. These opportunities spring up all the time, especially between my two oldest children. Just yesterday, my oldest complained that her younger sister called her a name, and, typically, I would just discipline the offender and move on. However, this time, I sat down with both of them and worked out how each could have prevented the “incident” from happening and how they would like to move forward. Mommy mediator at work!

two-arguing-sistersHowever, I find that judging in the home also has its place. A few years ago, I read an article when I only had one small infant. However, it made such an impact on me that I vowed to remember it when I had multiple children. It was written by a judge, and here’s how he handles fights between his two teenagers: if his children ask him to get involved in a disagreement, he requires them to each write a paper outlining his/her side of the story. When they’re finished, they can present their arguments, and he will choose who’s right. Naturally, on most occasions, they don’t want to bother writing their arguments and just work it out on their own! Brilliant!

I’ve tried this out at home with age-appropriate adaptations. So, if my 7 and 8 year old come to me with a disagreement, I ask that they both write a 50 word paragraph outlining their argument. Most often, this forces them to work it out, as they don’t want to write the paragraph. So, you can imagine my surprise when they both wrote it and presented it to me. Turns out, they didn’t even wait to hear my “judgement.” They just wanted to be “heard.”

That takes me back to mediation. At the end of the day, we all just want to be “heard.” And, isn’t that what we mediators provide…a place to be heard?



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