This card's instructions suggest having a "discussion where each person gets to voice feelings and thoughts on an issue. Brainstorm solutions and choose one everyone can agree to. Agree on a specific time deadline. If agreement is not followed avoid judgment and criticism. Use nonverbal signals or ask, What was our agreement? If agreeement still is not follwed, start again at step 1."
I skipped writing about this last week because I wasn't sure what I wanted to say about it. My goal is to notice how I use these tools in my life, but all my noticing was just kind of humdrum. I use agreements all the time with the people in my world. Ageements provide structure and expectations, which are helpful as I organize my time and set priorities for what I need to accomplish. The people I interact with are pretty dependabe, as am I, and if one of us can't keep an agreement for some reason, we have a discussion and adust expectations according to need. Life is good.
AND...I'm glad I waited to write, because time tends to reveal what I need to be aware of. At our monthly North American Positive Discipline Mentor meeting on Zoom yesterday, ("North American" is the designated name, but we have people from all over the world in attendance--what a wonderful gift technology is!), I experienced a deeper level of awareness that I think connects to using the Agreements tool.
The Mentor meeting gives Positive Discipline Educators and Trainers the opportunity to practice facilitating acivities, ask questions, and learn from each other. Yesterday, we particpated in an activity that illustrated what happens when adults and kids are engaged in a power struggle. One person pretended to be a child who wanted to stand up, and the other person played an adult who wanted the child to sit down. The adult's job was to use whatever means necessary to get the child to sit down. The child could respond in the way that made sense to them, based on the adult's behavior.
As we processed the activity, we noticed that the adults started with a respectful request, but then moved to cajoling, manipulation, rewards/bribes, and threats of punishment when the child didn't cooperate.
LIGHTBULB MOMENT! When the facilitator asked how the adult might have acted if the person standing was another adult instead of a child, we all acknowledged that our perceptions and strategies would likely have been very different: everything from, "I'd assume he/she needed to stand up for a reason and would let it go," to, "I'd have a discussion about why the person needed to stand, what problem that might be causing, and how to solve the problem respectfully." In other words, create an agreement.
We also aknowledged that, even though all of us know how to use tools that can keep us out of power sturggles, we've all experienced being caught up in our own "stuff" in the moment and reacting to another person's behavior with "strategies" that resulted in a power struggle. It's an easy trap to fall into when we're feeling vulnerable and our buttons are being pushed.
When we were in the power struggle role play--as with real power struggles--both the adult and the child felt a need for power OVER the other person/situation. Conversations that have a goal of increasing understanding and creating agreements put us in a place of power WITH.
When we can recognize that the other person has a point of view, a need, a goal...and that we also have a point of view, a need, a goal...we can offer conversation instead of power. Conversation can lead us toward understanding, which can lead us toward agreements.
I see the implications of this awareness not just as it pertains to adults and children, but as it pertains to all of us in our stress-laden society. I'm reallly working hard at responding to people with respectful conversation. I hope that increasing understanding and and finding common ground can be the foundation for an agreement about how to move forward in ways that preserve dignity and respect for everyone. It's hard. My emotions get the better of me sometimes. But it's an important goal for me, because I see the power of respectful agreements on a micro-level with the people I interact with frequently, and on a macro/societal-level, as well.
I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on how you've used agreements, both on the micro-level and on the macro-level. Thanks for engaging in respectful conversation, if you wish to!
And...if you'd like to have your own set of Positive Discipline Tool Cards, go to the App store on your phone and search "Positive Discipline Tool Cards." There's a set for parents, and another set for teachers. The app costs $3.99 and there are 52 of them--one for each week of the year!