war negotiation strategies: kids

This morning I was negotiating a treaty between the feuding countries of Hers and His, with the latter region’s delegate secured in the bathroom. The drawbridge was up; there was an emote of tears.

“The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise attributed to Sun Tzu, a high-ranking military general, strategist and tactician. The text is composed of 13 chapters, each of which is devoted to one aspect of warfare. It is commonly known to be the definitive work on military strategy and tactics of its time.” –Wikipedia

Lucas had discovered a piece of his artwork in the bathroom garbage and wanted to tell on Abigail for throwing it away. Why he was rummaging through the bathroom garbage is something none of us wants to address. These mini-morning battles happen. They’re part of growing up, part of parenting, part of bathrobes and bathrooms, hallways and homes. His and hers. Now, this was not your Let’s Paint Music art project. It was a connect the numbered dots drawing of a plant-eating mammal with a remarkable horn on the nose and thick folded skin, native to Africa and southern Asia. I assure you my description is far more colorful than the jagged green line drawing of the rhinoceros, but to our good delegate it was a prized piece of art. And such matters must be taken seriously? Really? I took a deep breath and smoothed away his tears, meeting his eyes with mine. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Again. I said nothing. He breathed with me. He looked at his drawing and began in a fit. I shook my head, closing my eyes. I felt like a karate teacher.

“I know, Mama.” Lucas said. “This is tattling, not reporting.” Oh, good glory, yes to the yes of yes. With hideous drawing in hand, my little ruler took to the war room to deal with his younger sister (by one minute). “Abigail, is this your drawing or mine? Oh. I thought it was mine, and I thought you threw it out. I was wrong. I’m sorry. Will you please accept my apology? Great. Mama, when’s breakfast ready?”

It really was her drawing.
They really did have identical hideous drawing-by-number rhino art.
I really didn’t need to say a word.
He did it all on his own.
Silence is one of the best strategies there is.




  1. As a twin, I totally get this. As a mom, I can only hope to become a bit more patient, to handle things like this that happen before my morning coffee (why do they always happen pre-caffeine?) in a quieter, calmer and more conducive to good result kind of way. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Brilliant! Often, allowing the darlings time to ‘be still’ and figure out their own path, is genius. Teaching kids to be in control of their emotions, allowing them to figure stuff out will make them capable adults.

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