Like nearly all siblings, our sons sometimes got into quarrels. When that occurred, Beloved and I attempted to unravel how it started so we could create learning lessons as well as determine fair and appropriate consequences for their actions.
Not surprisingly, their versions of what happened sometimes differed greatly. In those situations where it was clear to us that there were no innocent victims and that they’d both broken some rules, rather than try to unravel their stories (which often created more heat than light) we found what we considered to be a fairly elegant solution.
We sent them into a room and told them that they were to stay in there until they got their stories straight and agreed on what had taken place.
Then we closed the door and waited. At first we sometimes heard continued bickering, and then silence. But usually fairly quickly, negotiations began. They realized that the length of time they’d be stuck in the room with each other, and the severity of their other consequences-—if any—-became completely dependent on working together to create a story that got them both off the hook.
“Well maybe you weren’t trying to hit me with the ball, and I only shoved you a little bit just kinda playing around, right?”
“Maybe you didn’t eat my ice cream bar and I only thought you did, and maybe I got permission from you to eat your cookies and you just kinda forgot that you said it was ok, right?”
Once they got their stores straight, they came out and told their revised story.
It was interesting and humorous to Beloved and me that to no matter how heated the original argument, or how mistreated by the other they felt they had been, that by the time they came out of the room they agreed that the situation had mostly been one big misunderstanding or that that the terrible wrongs that had been inflicted on each other weren’t nearly as bad as they’d originally thought!
Sometimes the stories were said with almost-gritted teeth, and sometimes they had to work through some amazing mental gymnastics to go from their original stories to the ones that they negotiated.
Sure, we knew that were probably weren’t getting the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but we figured that we probably weren’t getting it before either and that we’d only been getting their versions of the truth anyway.
At least with this “Get Your Stories Straight” strategy, they had to do the work to solve the problem–instead of Beloved and me–and they had to work together to do it!
Besides, it was fun to hear how much their stories changed when they worked together versus when they were each trying to get the other into trouble! The hardest part for Beloved and me was to act serious during some very humorous story changes, especially as their faces and body language contorted along with their stories!
And harmony was more quickly restored in our home.