Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Right to Remain Silent

We must be the change we wish to see
~ Ghandi

Silence is one way of drawing a boundary. It is particularly useful when you do not want to engage in conflict or pursue a violent dialogue.

Many parents have difficulty disengaging from their children when they start to bicker and pout about a chore or house rule. Mom says: Time for the TV to go off. Child asks: Why now? Mom answers: Time to do your homework. Child replies: Just one more program...

You can explain the rule to your child and justify any points he takes issue with. This is especially appropriate when the rule is new or has not been well understood. You can also be flexible and negotiate with your child, especially if he is growing out of a rule and needs more autonomy. Generally speaking, however, a child needs rules and boundaries to be firm in order both to know where he stands with you as an authority, and to have some dependable guidelines for making his own decisions. To respond to his every objection, to allow every conversation to escalate into an argument, or to let your child harass and badger you into submission is simply allowing him to violate your boundaries. This is not good for either him or you.

You have the power to defuse this situation.

If your child already knows the rule, if he has had a reasonable explanation of it in the past and has been given fair warning about your expectations when the rule is broken, this may be the time to remind him of that, and then turn the TV off. If your child continues to argue with you, you may want to placate your child with empathy but, in terms of arguing anything, it may be best to remain silent.

Friday, February 10, 2012

between a rock and a hard place

You can't go forward
You can't go backward
You can't stay in place

What are you going to do?

~ a Zen koan

This week I met with a bus driver who told me that he felt caught between the public and his employer. He told me that there aren't enough buses during rush hour so buses often run late. People board the bus in a foul mood and complain to him, blaming and sometimes even threatening him when the bus is not on time. It's not his fault there aren't enough buses; but do they care? The bus company, on the other hand, expects him to manage cranky passengers with tact and self-restraint. If he loses his temper and snaps back, and the passenger files a complaint, he will be reprimanded by the boss. He may be under great stress and defending himself against an aggressive customer; but does the boss care?

This driver felt sandwiched between what he called the “je m'en foutisme” (the “I don't careism”) of consumers and employers. Nobody sees the bigger picture, blaming an employee for a problem which is not his, but nobody cares or really wants to solve it. He is caught in the wedge of their indifference but the more he pushes back, the more it chafes and hurts. This is a no-win situation.

There's a time and place to fight but it's not when you're caught between a rock and a hard place. This is a time to do nothing.