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Collaborative Law & Mediation: So Simple a 1st Grader can Do It!

Recently I attended my child's first grade open house.  Among the many details about policy, projects and pick-ups, the principal shared an interesting theme that they are working on this year.  He described the PAWS principle that they teach our children (aptly named for a school with a bear mascot).

PAWS stands for:

Practice empathy,
Act responsibly,
Work hard, and 
Solve problems together

These principles struck me because they are so basic that we often take them for granted.  In Collaborative Law and Mediation we live by the PAWS principles but often struggle to boil them down to so simple of a form.  If first graders can get it, though, we should be able to make it this easy for adults.

As one six year old recently tried to explain to her fighting parents: "Nobody gets along all the time. But disagreeing sometimes is one thing — treating each other poorly is another."  This viral video of a six year old explaining how to be nice to her parents is both adorable and full of wisdom:




If you are struggling with a family conflict (or know someone who is) consider how you can apply the principles we learn in first grade.  Practice empathy when considering what both sides have to offer each other and how each side may have unique goals and interests.  Act responsibly by doing the work you agree to do, and providing answers to each other's questions.  Work hard to solve hard problems, instead of looking for quick or easy solutions that might be detrimental in the long run.  And most importantly, solve problems together because conflict doesn't start with one person and it never ends with only one person's solution.

Taking positions in litigation or negotiation often fails to reduce conflict because the unilateral attempts to find a quick solution fail all of these tests.  It's so simple a first grader can do it.  Can you?

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