The Opposite of COMBAT: "M" is for Mulling-over

Technique: Now that the kids have finished Brainstorming without criticism or evaluating, it's time for Mulling-over. This is the time to compare all the solutions they've come up with and to begin negotiating about them. If kids have objections, they should be encouraged to state respectfully what they don't like about someone else's suggestion, or to say how they would tweak it to make it more acceptable. (You may have to refer back to the ground rules to keep things civil.)

Something cool to watch for: you may notice that some hybridizing happens during negotiations, especially in cases where there are a lot of options on the table.  Kids are very nimble thinkers. They may take the front end of one idea and hook it on to the back end of another. Once that happens, they may really have something!  The rewards of respectful negotiation should be pretty apparent at this point.

Tip: Here you can sometimes help if you notice that Party #1 wants such-and-such but still hasn't put anything on the table as a concession. You can gently probe to see if Party #2 needs or wants something in return. Often an idea that sounded terrible five minutes ago starts to sound pretty good if it's accompanied by something of value in exchange. And “something of value” may not be anything material. It could be a offer of help with something.

Q: Dear Susie – I was kind of surprised to see that my older child had trouble during Brainstorming. I thought she would be the one with all the ideas. Instead, my younger one, who is usually less verbal, was on fire with solutions and suggestions. This seemed to make the older one grumpy and a little shut-down.

A: Dear Parent – I say give it time. Mediation is a great setup for getting to know your children better (as well as a way for them to get to know each other better.) If I had to guess, I'd bet that your older child has a harder time with change and new situations. This whole “mediation thing” caught her off guard. It sounds like your younger child greets new situations with enthusiasm, jumping in with both feet! It may take your older one a little time and practice to get comfortable mediating. Be sure to thank them for hanging in there, and for their hard work -- even if the results aren't yet dazzling.