35 Comments
founding
Mar 23, 2022Liked by Courtney Martin

I love this, Courtney! And I marvel at the gifts of alchemy that allow you to put all this in the crucible of life and emerge with gold. At first I thought, “Where was this 50 years ago, when I was raising kids and could have used it?” Then I realized, “I need it just as much today as I continue to try to grow up!” Thanks, dear friend! And a deep bow and big hug to all the actors in this piece!

Expand full comment
Mar 23, 2022Liked by Courtney Martin

Years ago, long before I had any conflict resolution training, I had two little people in my Kindergarten class that had been angry with each other (and had often fought) for almost the entire year. One day I was so tired of their arguments that I had them sit down and "solve their problem". The problem seemed to be one of the kids had drawn on the other one's arm! All I could think of was "why did you leave your arm where your friend could DRAW on it?!?!" Luckily I didn't say that! After I directed them to sit there until they could work it out, I walked away! no attention. no guiding them through any process. I did sneak peeks every now and then. After about 10 minutes the "offended child" came up to me with a huge smile. "We solved it" he said. I asked him what their solution was. "He licked it off!" They were best friends from that moment on.

Expand full comment
Mar 23, 2022·edited Mar 23, 2022Liked by Courtney Martin

This is gorgeous, Courtney, and -- as someone who also talks her family to death, including her 7yo for whom *words just do not work, no matter how much I use them* -- I needed this guidance badly.

My husband and I are able to work out a lot of difficult things when walking. I think there is something to be said for being side by side, moving forward together (in a different way than, say, while riding in the car, the scene of some of our worst fights). It positions us differently: in the same direction, as it were, and it matters so much.

Expand full comment
Mar 24, 2022Liked by Courtney Martin

I would like to add a note of caution, though. The teacher knows the kids well enough to know whether this is a viable approach for these two kids. Power differentials between kids can be pretty important. Sending a kid who is being bullied out to the playground with the bullying kid to work things out, for example, could be a problem more than a great solution. What also came to mind were a lot of testimonials I have heard recently from people now adults who were victims of childhood sexual abuse by, say, older or larger cousins - people who as kids were in no position to work things out and yet never disclosed what was going on to anyone. I just don't want us to over-simplify the issue here.

Expand full comment
Mar 23, 2022·edited Mar 21, 2023Liked by Courtney Martin

A very mature copywriter boyfriend took me on a walk one day, prefacing the walk with “I have a problem I need your help with”. He began to talk about a friend who is so in love with a woman and yet realizes their differences in religion, age, and nationality were too much for him to overcome. What advice could I give to help his friend? The woman was me, he was “the friend”, and setting his pain and confusion in the third person was nothing short of genius. We got thru this awfully sad conversation with grace and empathy. My husband, daughter and I use this approach frequently when “I” sentences may cause pain amongst those we love the most.

Expand full comment

Yes. Thank you. Once, when I was in high school, I had a guy I was dating who was almost entirely deaf. We worked at a wilderness summer camp together and on a canoeing trip his hearing aids got wet. He had to send them to be repaired and couldn't hear for at least a week. Which was exactly when we got into an enormous fight. We ended up writing the entire disagreement on a yellow legal pad shoved back and forth across a picnic table. I don't know if I would say that we resolved it in some miraculous way better than we might have actually using our voices, but there was something about the silent physicality of it that I've never forgotten. The way that we both waited for the other to finish scribbling, the way we read and sighed and glared and then tried to find the most succinct words to respond. Succinct isn't usually my strength.

There is much to be said for approaching conflict in unexpected and embodied ways which circumvent our tendencies to over-intellectualize or attempt to control the narrative.

Expand full comment
Mar 23, 2022Liked by Courtney Martin

This column has certainly elicited a series of wise and inspiring comments that I wholly support. I’d like to add a recommendation for the Peace Literacy program that’s directed by Sharyn Clough and Paul Chappell at Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR. They offer excellent workshops on PL that teach how to develop less conflictual, non-adversarial language in both kids and adults. I took one of their workshops online last summer and it presented novel and helpful modes of communication. This will be introduced into the curriculum at Lincoln high school in Portland where I volunteer teach an Ethics course with an outstanding philosophy teacher, Gabrielle Buvinger-Wild. So there are teachers working diligently on this immense task of implementing nonviolent communication at early levels of education. Thanks once again for this superlative true to life story! DD

Expand full comment
Mar 23, 2022Liked by Courtney Martin

Can we please send those brilliant children from the Emerson school to the halls of power? Moscow? Kyiv? Washington DC? (With their teacher.)

Expand full comment
Mar 23, 2022Liked by Courtney Martin

Beautifully written, and so true. The part about the two boys going out to the playground not to fight, but to create a contract, reflects a teacher who needs to stay in the classroom for a long time.

Expand full comment
Mar 23, 2022Liked by Courtney Martin

This helped me recognize, in large part, why I want to talk everything out. As a child, I felt so confused about and saddened by the big, hard things left unsaid. I’m bringing that into my parenting, but my child does not want to talk everything out. So, I’m actually doing it for my inner child, not my actual child who needs something different. Eek.

Also, I’m reading Esther Perel’s Mating in Captivity, and over-reliance on verbal communication is a major theme. The universe is trying to teach me something...

Expand full comment

I love this. Thanks for sharing. I am also a read/writer/talk-it-to-death type, and it's only in the last six months or so that I've really tried allowing my partner's methods of repair (action, quality time) begin to really feel restorative for me. It's hard, but wonderful, and it's been nice to model for our children. They are teaching us lots about the necessity of repair too. Great post.

Expand full comment
Mar 23, 2022Liked by Courtney Martin

Gah! This rings so true for me. Being a wordy person with a need to process everything hyper-verbally and with a husband who is “a man of little words!” The frustration. Working on practicing to listen, just be and understand one another and accept our differences in being is an ongoing journey. Funnily enough it’s not gender because my son is so like me and I love your description of how your daughter is more like her father. Blows those stereotypes away.

Expand full comment
Mar 23, 2022Liked by Courtney Martin

good lord. This EXACT thing (the invasive goddess thing, though I am pretty sure my family would not choose the word goddess.... maybe something beginning with a "b", in their minds anyway, though there I go being Bunny A) just happened in our living room last night, and I am stewing about it as I read my email. I will read this AGAIN, MANY TIMES, tonight after work. Right now, I say, thank you.

Expand full comment

I've read through this a second time. Thank you for writing this.

This stood out to me: "When I let something other than talking be the dominant medium, the light gets through." Yes!

Repair is hard. I have also written about it. It's hard and so powerful. The vision "this is what I want to happen" is really fruitful, I find.

Expand full comment

What the teacher did was so bold and so genious - and actually sounds so Scandinavian!! It's this approach, that I find helps me keep my sanity with 3 wild boys--where you allow and encourage them to do everything possible as independently as possible. But, It's still hard for me to stick to just 4 words when they fight: "go figure it out". I'll try that out - today!!

Expand full comment