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A stitch in time

Tom Feinson
Negotiation Stitches [Converted]
© Adobe Stock

“So, no swimming or football for the rest of your holiday”. These are the words my seven year old was desperate not to hear - but sadly he did. We were lucky enough to catch some winter sun at the end of 2022. My son was unlucky enough to cut his leg in the hotel grounds badly enough to need stitches (yes there will be a claim, probably the subject of a subsequent blog) and those were the words of the Doctor that stitched him up. He was not happy.

His unhappiness turned into outrage the following day when he saw one of his newfound holiday buddies heading to the football pitch. I overheard him demanding of my wife that he should be allowed to go and play. My wife, a lawyer, very calmly explained why he couldn’t play. “If your cut gets hit by the ball it will open again and be even worse”. He responded by saying that he kicked the ball with his foot not his leg and it would be fine. The argument escalated quickly, tension rose along with voices and tears flowed. I felt obliged to get involved and sadly only made matters worse. It was by now a full-blown row, with every reason given for not playing immediately unpicked, rejected and replaced with his justification for playing. I decided to impose my will. “I understand your argument but you’re not playing and that’s the end of it”. Sadly, he did not accept this and continued to argue his case ignoring my repeated assertion that it wasn’t happening. 20 minutes of circular argument later we were all emotionally drained and frustrated but my son was showing no signs of giving up the fight.

Then, in a moment of inspiration, I asked “what would it take for you not to play?” To my surprise everything went quiet: the crying stopped, time stood still, a smile spread across his face and he said “a phone”.

I was impressed by the power of this simple question to reframe his mindset. I now had the challenge of meeting his demand but, in my view, that is a more constructive place to be than having a row. We agreed that when we got back to the UK he would be allowed to have one of my old mobile phones. “Oh and one more thing” he said “I will get a sim card won’t I”………..

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