HABIT 4 THINK “WIN-WIN”
As we move toward our destination as a family, we’re sometimes thrown off track by external forces. But the force that does the greatest damage is the climate created within the family by negative emotions-competition, criticism, blaming, anger.
The key to handling these challenges is to cultivate a family culture of mutual respect, understanding and creative cooperation. This is the essence of Habits 4, 5 and 6.
One father told this story:
Our two boys were very competitive and squabbled frequently. Finally, I confronted the older boy about it. He abruptly announced, “The thing you don’t get is that I can’t stand my brother.” 1 was shocked by the intensity of his feelings.
Then I asked the older boy to tell his brother what he’d told me. The younger boy was hurt by the cutting words. Blinking back tears, he looked down and quietly said, “Why?”
His brother was quick with his answer: “Because you’re always saying things that make me mad. I just don’t want to be around you.”
The younger brother sighed. “I do that because every time we play a game you always win.”
“Sure I do,” the older boy quickly replied. “I’m better than you.”
With that, the little boy could hardly speak. But he said, “Yeah, but every time you win, I lose. So I say things to bug you. I just can’t stand to lose all the time.”
These tearful words reached the heart of the older brother. The tone of his words softened as he said, “I’m sorry. But will you please just stop saying and doing the stupid things that make me so mad at you?”
“OK,” the younger boy replied. “And will you stop feeling that you always have to win?”
I know I’ll never forget my young son’s words. Losing all the time, or even most of the time, can make any of us say and do stupid things that bug others and even ourselves.
No one likes to “lose” especially in close family relationships. So win-win is the only solid foundation for effective family interaction. It’s the only pattern of thinking and interacting that builds long-term relationships of trust and unconditional love. And all it takes to change the situation is for one person to think win-win.
Thinking win-win means you have this spirit of win-win in all family interactions. You always want what’s best for everyone involved.
Of course, there will be times when you’ll have to say no to children. This doesn’t feel like a win to them. But if you cultivate the spirit of win-win whenever you can, children will better understand and accept those decisions that sometimes seem to them to be win – lose. There are several ways to achieve this.
* Let them win in the little things. In our family, if children want to go outside, get their clothes dirty or leave a cardboard fort in the house for weeks, we generally let them do it. We try to distinguish between matters of principle and matters of preference, and only take a stand on things that really count.
* Talk with them about the big things. That way they’ll know you have their welfare in mind. Try to involve them in the problem and work out the solution together.
*Take steps to offset the competition focus. Recently, 1 went to watch our granddaughter play in an important soccer match, which ultimately ended in a tie. Her team was demoralized, and the coach was deeply disappointed also.
So I began to say enthusiastically, “Great game, kids! You had five goals-to try your best, to have fun, to work together as a team, to learn and to win. You accomplished four and a half of those goals. That’s ninety Percent! Congratulations!”
You could just see their eyes brighten up. And it wasn’t long until players, coach and parents were celebrating the four and a half goals these kids had achieved.