By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller
We know a parent who has a magic carpet in her home. To the untrained eye it appears to be a small oval rug that sits in front of the fireplace. It serves as a safety net should burning embers make it through the fireplace screen and fall onto the floor. The protective nature of this rug is an important and appreciated function but is not related in any way to its magical attributes. This magic rug plays a more important role. It produces magical and elegant solutions to family conflicts. This is how it works.
Recently, this parent's ten-year-old son began an algebra unit in his fifth-grade math class. His older sister had also been studying algebra throughout her eighth-grade school year. When the boy made an error on one homework problem, his sister leaped to the rescue. Fashioning herself as a future math teacher, she saw this opportunity as a chance to practice her trade. There was a slight problem, however. The young man did not want to be the practice dummy. A light disagreement began, gradually escalated its way into bickering, and then bloomed into a full-blown argument, complete with angry tones and loud voices.
When loud turned to louder, Mom stepped in. "Sounds like you two are in need of the magic carpet," she observed. That got the children’s attention. "What do mean, magic carpet?" they asked in unison.
Their mother had heard about the magic carpet at a parenting seminar and had purchased a small oval rug to serve that purpose. She had not used it yet. The algebra equation situation seemed like the right time to see if the carpet could do its thing. "I have a magic carpet here," she explained. Her belief in the carpet’s magic evident on her face, she instructed, "Come on over. Each of you sit on one end of this rug, facing each other." The siblings did. "When people in our family sit face to face on the magic carpet and talk about their conflict, magic solutions appear," she told them.
The children were doubtful. The mother's face continued to express her belief.
"Sometimes the solutions come quickly," she went on. "At other times it takes a while for a solution to surface, but I have never seen it fail. This carpet is magic, and it will help you create a magic solution to the algebra problem dilemma. Just sit here facing each other and keep talking until you find a solution to which both of you can agree." Disgusted looks appeared on her children’s faces as she proceeded.
"Let me know when you find an elegant solution," she remarked. "I want to hear how this carpet works its magic in this case." Amid their grumbling, she returned to her computer and began to work.
While working on her computer, she simultaneously listened in as their conversation began. It didn't take long before she realized she was the only one listening. Both children were talking at the same time, interrupting each other and getting louder. Frustration mounted and anger increased as emotions grew more intense.
At this point, Mom reentered the scene. "I don't hear any magic yet," she observed. "He won't listen to me," said one. "She won't listen to me," said the other. It was clearly time to give the magic carpet some assistance.
Rummaging through the kitchen, this aware mother found a large wooden spoon. "This is a talking stick," she explained. The spoon was the closest thing she could find to a stick at the moment. "Native Americans used talking sticks during council meetings," she continued. "The rules are simple. You can only talk if you are holding the stick (spoon). When you're finished talking, pass the stick to the other person and don't talk until it is handed back to you. Understand?"
"Yep," they answered.
She handed the stick to the oldest child and sat back to listen to the conversation. Although they followed the talking stick rules, it was a good ten minutes before any real listening took place. Both children were intent are telling their side of the story and proving how right they were. Eventually, they both realized that in order to get off the rug they were going to have to find a solution that both could live with.
One solution was offered. It was rejected, and another was proposed in its place. From their spots on the rug, reasons, rationale, and counter proposals were suggested by one child or the other. Clearly, the oval carpet was working its magic.
Twenty minutes into the magic carpet session a solution was offered and accepted. The eighth-grader would listen to the fifth-grader explain how he did the equation. He would then listen to his sister explain her understanding of the math problem the way her teacher taught it in eighth grade. She agreed to play a board game with him later in the evening. Conflict was resolved and consensus reached. Siblings were now at peace, implementing the agreed-upon solution.
It's not easy being a parent. It sure helps to have a magic carpet.
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of The Only 3 Discipline Strategies You Will Ever Need. They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free Uncommon Parenting blog. To obtain more information about how they can help you or your group meet your parenting needs, visit their website today: www.uncommon-parenting.com.