"But it's not my fault": Star Wars and family conflict
"But it's not my fault" said my 7 year old son yesterday. He and his younger brother had been happily playing together with various Star Wars figures. Don't ask me to elaborate - it's a source of constant disappointment to them that their mum is clueless about all things Star Wars.
At some point, play broke down and voices became raised. Figures were snatched and thrown across the room. The 4 year old started to cry. I put down the cup of tea I had been about to enjoy.
I’m tempted to tell you how my training and experience in mediation and dispute resolution helped me broker a swift and amicable end to sibling hostilities. But that wouldn't be strictly true. We did, however, manage to work out who had the coveted figure and a rough timetable of sharing it over the next 15 minutes. Maybe I would get to drink my rapidly cooling cup of tea after all.
But that's when the "it's not my fault" line came in. And it pretty much undermined the harmonious but fragile Star Wars situation. Hostilities resumed.
And it got me thinking - all the 7 year old had done was what most of us, children and adults alike, feel a huge temptation to do at the end of an argument or disagreement: try to regain some sense of being "in the right" and to avoid blame or responsibility. A way of reasserting control, perhaps, after a process which hasn’t allowed us to participate in the solution.
Written down in black and white, it's pretty clear to most of us that attributing blame or fault doesn't achieve much at all and - as in the case of my sons - actually undermined any settlement or "peace" already achieved.
But this approach is not only tempting, it's sometimes actively encouraged. This week, the government announced that it would be consulting on changes to divorce laws in England and Wales. In 2018, a couple still has to establish that one party is at fault to get a divorce.
Creating conflict in this way is unnecessary and when it comes to families and children, destructive and harmful. Changing the system so that parties are not forced into confrontation and conflict can only be positive and will protect children and adults alike from the potentially long-lasting effects of conflict.
Having been involved in dispute resolution for more than 15 years, it seems to me that a long and drawn out consultation on divorce law isn't necessary. Any change to the law which encourages a no-fault, less confrontational and adversarial approach to such a stressful area of personal conflict, should be welcomed and brought in as swiftly as possible.
Let me know your thoughts.