Ophelia takes care of her neighbor Anne’s four-year-old son Joey along with her own son Brian, also four. The two boys squabble a lot, and sometimes their fights get physical. Yesterday Brian came screaming into her room with scratch marks bleeding on his face and Joey hot on his heels. Joey was yelling that Brian hit him first, and both boys were still hitting each other.
Ophelia was shocked by her urge to shove Joey away. It was all she could do to maintain a façade of evenhandedness. Ophelia knows full well that Brian may have started it, but her momma- bear reaction was so intense that it almost didn’t matter. And yet she realizes that if she is going to help Brian see his role in the fights she somehow has to reclaim her own sense of objectivity.
What is Objectivity?
Objectivity means being able to assess what is real without being biased by self-interest, tribalism, agenda, ideology, or emotion. We think of objectivity as being particularly important in the work of scientists and judges, but in reality it is of value in any role that involves decision making. Without objectivity fairness and accuracy suffer, and far too easily we end up doing harm when we are trying to do good.
When we demonstrate an ability to be objective, other people seek our opinions, particularly in conflict situations. Our objectivity becomes a community resource.
Five Quotes to Contemplate and Share.
*Hear one side and you will be in the dark; hear both sides and all will be clear.—Thomas Chandler Haliburton
*Objectivity cannot be equated with mental blankness; rather, objectivity resides in recognizing your preferences and then subjecting them to especially harsh scrutiny — and also in a willingness to revise or abandon your theories when the tests fail (as they usually do).–Steven Jay Gould
*Friends are helpful not only because they will listen to us, but because they will laugh at us; Through them we learn a little objectivity, a little modesty, a little courtesy; We learn the rules of life and become better players of the game.–Will Durant
Bringing it home to your kids:
1. When your child is getting hurt physically or emotionally, it is often tempting to jump into the fray on their side. But this robs them of critical conflict resolution skills. Do what you need to do to establish safety, but then do what you need to do to calm yourself down. How can you help your child to analyze the situation? What can he or she do differently next time?
2. Talk about your biases, rather than pretending you have none. Let your kids know when you’re feeling “too upset to be fair”, and give yourself time-out when you need it.
3. Teach your children that all of us have blind spots—and that we all tend to see the world through a self-serving lens. Humility and insight about this universal human frailty is one of the great gifts you can give them.
4. Don’t let your kids get into “he said/she said” disputes about who is at fault in the heat of the moment. Think about some intervening ritual between the quarrel and the discussion – like everyone has to drink a glass of water before each person tells their tale.
5. Not all stories are created equal, and not all participants in a dispute are equally at fault. Don’t be afraid to make your best judgment calls even knowing that sometimes you’ll get it wrong. And don’t be afraid to apologize afterwards when it becomes clear that you’ve misjudged a situation.
Photo by: Teeny