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Who ya Gonna Punish?

Conflicts of Interest Blog by Vivian Scott

Here’s another one of those “I-wish-people-would-stop-doing-that” blogs.

Disappointing relationships often cause good people to do really dreadful things. And, punishing the wrong person for your disappointment is definitely a dreadful thing. I see loads of mediation clients who insist on using their children as sticks and carrots when it comes to dealing with their exes. Problem is, they don’t see that in their attempts to reward and punish the person who hurt them greatly they are greatly hurting their children. Revenge is not so sweet when it sours your relationship with the kids. It’s even worse when you think your actions are okay.

Many of my mediation cohorts and I have come to the conclusion that children deserve two parents no matter how stinky you think the other one is. I’m not a therapist but I’m pretty sure that your kids won’t grow up to thank you for all the times you cancelled a visit as punishment for their other parentwho was 10 minutes late to the meeting spot. Your little ones won’t always be little and when they’re grown they most likely won’t appreciate you for using them as pawns in a poorly-played game of I’m-so-mad-at-you-I-could-spit chess.

Trying to be the mature player in a game like that is really hard, but it’s worth it. Actions do speak louder than words and demonstrating maturity to your children can be more impactful than pulling out the dictionary to read the definition. Demonstrating communication, forgiveness, and hope is powerful.

At the end of the day, what feels fair to you may not be fair for your children. Of course you want to save your little ones from disappointment and the reality that parents don’t always keep their word. So, I understand wanting to “take away” something from your ex so that (s)he gets the message that it’s not okay for them to do that to little schmoopie. Sometimes the conflict that comes your way can be a great teaching tool, though. Showing children how to compromise, how to discover what’s most important to them, and how to keep their integrity even when others don’t keep theirs are pretty good life lessons–certainly better than lessons like displaced anger, sabotage, and revenge.


Vivian Scott

Vivian Scott is a Professional Certified Mediator and the author of Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies.  She spent many years in the competitive and often stress-filled world of high tech marketing where she realized resolving conflict within the confines of office politics was paramount to success.  Through creative solutions… MORE >

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