Do YOU know how to fight?
The other day, something happened that made me feel proud, and I wanted to share it with you. My partner shared some concerns about her son, Luc, a teenager. As a person with a background in athleticism, my first thought was to approach it like a wrestling match — look for weaknesses and strike when opportunities arise. However, I knew that dealing with a teenage boy required treading lightly, especially when he’s not your own.
I asked Luc if he had five minutes for a quick chat, and he agreed. He sat down with his phone and started fiddling with it. Respectfully, I let him know that I needed his undivided attention. The “table” was set. The phone was off and in his pocket. It was go-time. But as I was about to take a dominant position, I realized it might not be the best approach.
Instead, I took a sharp left turn and said, “Luc, do you know what I realized? I realized you don’t know how to fight.” His eyes got big, and his face looked intrigued. He was hooked. He looked like he wanted to know more.
I explained to Luc that there are different ways to fight, and sometimes, words can be more efficient and hurtful than guns and fists. You fight to win, and you know you’re winning when the person you’re fighting with is joining your side. You know you’re winning when the person you’re arguing against will instead support your point of view. I then offered to help him win his fight against his mother, saying that I could teach him how to hurt her if he wanted, to solidify my camaraderie and support in his efforts.
But I also emphasized that telling someone off isn’t necessarily hurtful. However, telling someone, you don’t love them or don’t like them can do more damage than you think. We all want to be liked, heard, and validated, including me. We want to be liked so much that we’re willing to break the rules and give away what’s most dear to us to achieve that.
I told Luc that next time when he’s about to get into a fight with his mother and when he feels like things are getting out of control, he should let me know. I can help both of them get what they want. “Don’t fight with your mom as any ordinary punk. Be smart about it. Fight to win,” I said.
The behavior that followed weeks after our conversation was a true statement of his intentions: to improve his relationship with his mom. Although my initial thought was to approach the conversation from an assertive position, I realized that it was much more productive to sympathize with him and join his side rather than try to school him or fight him.
Being a parent is challenging, and being a step-parent is even more so. It’s almost like farming. You reap what you sow. I find that it’s all about cultivating trust and building a relationship based on respect and authenticity. Children know when we’re not authentic and honest. At least my daughters know. They might not know how to express it and articulate it, but they know.
That conversation brought us closer and showed him that I was not his enemy but an ally. It was a proud moment for me and a learning lesson for both of us. We all need more lessons like that in our lives. Arguments and disagreements arise when two people try to come together and see things from the same perspective rather than from opposite viewpoints.
We often think we want to win, when in reality, we simply want to get closer to one another.