In a recent post in the Chilliwack Times Paul Henderson asked an excellent question.
When confronted by someone doing something that is colossally stupid, probably illegal and demonstrably dangerous to others, what do you do? Read the article here.
He also asked that responses be emailed to him or posted to a Facebook page. I think questions like this are important public topics and well, you know how I feel about Facebook.. so I’m responding to his most excellent question here.
For a bit more context, the dilemma Paul uses as an example is of seeing some young men with “serious archery sets” going into the small wood lot in Garrison Crossing. For those who haven’t been there it’s a small wooded area about 10 houses by 20 houses. It’s crisscrossed with trails and the trees tend to be far apart. It’s not a forest, it’s a park. There is no space within the park that you can’t see a house.
So, Paul asks, what would you do if you saw some young men enter the park with archery sets? Confront them, call the police, walk away?
My quick response on Twitter was – “Obvious response – Doods, my kids play here. Go find a logging road.” If that was ineffective, I’d call the police. That would be my response because I used to work in corrections and as a counsellor on a needle exchange so seeing people do dangerous and not so well thought out things is a norm for me. I have a host of canned responses to irresponsible behaviour and can deliver them in a way that usually doesn’t come across as confrontational. Not everyone does though.
We rarely explicitly teach kids conflict management or respectful communication. We trust that it’s modeled enough that they will pick up on it and if we catch them communicating a way that is disrespectful or that escalates conflict we correct them… Sometimes by modelling the exact opposite of what we are asking them to do. That’s a problem because kids grow up to be adults who in many cases don’t have well practiced skills in respectful communication, negotiation or conflict resolution. When we don’t have the skills to do something we don’t do it. It’s not the first tool we pull out of the drawer. We reach for what is comfortable, familiar and easy especially in situations that feel to us, like a dilemma.
So this is challenge number one – How do we increase our collective ability or capacity to communicate, in situations like this, in a more effective way. A way that keeps us safe, builds relationships and allows us to say – Dood, my kids play here. Go find a logging road.. or something similar.
The deeper and harder to answer question is around the way we are in community. The disconnection that makes us feel that any decision we make in these types of situations could be unsupported. In my last post I pondered “community”. The implied question was – How can we create community that is inclusive, welcoming, safe and innovative? How can we invite community to be part of itself?
I have experienced my own dilemmas. For me they occur whenever I see the face of a child that has been emotionally abandoned. There is a look, a stance, that children and adults have when they detach from others. I actually avoid large shopping centres for this reason. A large group of people with kids invariably includes at least a few families where despite everyone best efforts there is disfunction. When I hear a parent emotionally beating their kids in public, shaming, threatening, devaluing them as humans, that’s the dilema for me. There is little I can do as an individual to help. I’ve tried, trust me, there is no support in our community for this kind of “meddling” behaviour. We have a firm belief (and laws) that say that parents can do pretty much what they like to kids emotionally. We barely have laws protecting kids from outright physical abuse never mind emotional abuse.
As I said in my last post, we live in a community that doesn’t give water to thirsty kids. We also live in a community that stands by while children are harmed at the core. We are so confused over what it right, wrong, and acceptable by community standards that we experience a dilemma when we walk into a situation that is clearly unsafe, like shooting a bow in a park.
The views expressed in this blog are my own and may not always reflect the views of my clients or employers.
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