A part of Chase’s unique wiring, is that he genuinely does not comprehend or engage in pettiness, meanness, lying, theft or other forms of negative aggression. All deliberate acts of malice, hatred, violence, and atrocities thoroughly repel and confound him. In part, this is due to the fact that every day of his life since birth, Chase has had the good fortune to be surrounded by people who love, encourage, defend, protect and believe in him. Yet, there is something beyond this fact that is also at work in him. His brain literally doesn’t seem to allow for these aversions, and his creative and logical resources are so occupied with navigating through life, devising goals, and fulfilling dreams, that there’s simply no place for it in his mind, nor in his daily life. Now, like most guys, Chase enjoys good action movies, with battles between the good guys and bad guys – especially ones with an element of comedy. Yet unlike most guys (or any of us for that matter), Chase firmly believes that if any bad guys are left alive at the end of the story, that means that they eventually do become good guys. Which mirrors exactly what he believes is true in the “real world”. To his way of thinking, if people are alive, at some point, they have to stop wanting to hurt people and doing wrong things… why would anyone want to keep being bad? It just doesn’t make sense to him in any way, shape, or form. This idealistic hope is a gift of the heart, and it is all well and good, but it becomes a problem for him when reality collides with his version of how things should be. In those situations, he must learn to cope in a wise, healthy, self-preserving, and effective manner – a complicated and demanding endeavor for “typical” adults who are unencumbered by Chase’s particular beliefs, challenges, and personality traits.
Having shared all of this, it comes as no surprise that Chase isn't one to pick or willingly engage in a fight, verbally or physically. Direct personal conflict, and negativity in general, cause Chase extreme discomfort to the point where at times he can become deeply anxious and tearful; freezes up and stutters; and experiences confusion and lapses in comprehension and memory.
When he is in the presence of others who are in conflict with one another, he tries to make it all go away by making them laugh – sometimes that’s appropriate and it works… and sometimes it’s not and it doesn’t. And sometimes he slips into his own world, until the storm passes. Again, sometimes that is the right thing to do, and sometimes there are other choices and actions he could take. This is where Conflict Resolution, Anger Management, and Diversity Trainings come into play and can make all the difference in the world.
Chase being able to learn and practice these skills, equips him with the tools and empowerment necessary to effectively communicate his feelings, and manage difficult situations without being overcome and paralyzed by emotions. It also helps him distinguish between conflicts that he can resolve peacefully on his own, and ones that have escalated to the point where he needs assistance (parent, other trusted adults, law enforcement, etc.). In either case, he learns that he can make decisions that will effectively deal with whatever problem he may face, which in turn will eliminate some of the personal anxiety he experiences.
The older our kids get, the kind of conflicts, stresses, and consequences they face become greater. With this in mind, I dedicated the entire 2nd quarter of Chase’s CNYF Life Curriculum to Conflict Management.
The corner stone of the quarter was a Conflict Resolution / Anger Management / Diversity Training weekend workshop for 12 kids, including Chase. (I say the workshop was for the kids, but quite frankly I found myself being challenged and learning just as much as they did…EVERYONE needs this training and refresher courses, just to make sure we stay on top of our game!)
The training was led by my sister, Ariel Fernald, a professional mediator and trainer in conflict management and cultural understanding, with over 25 years of experience running similar programs for adults and troubled children in some of California’s toughest areas. For the CNYF weekend workshop, Ariel designed an intensive and fun 2-day interactive program for the kids, which included the following:
Setting the Stage for Good Relationships w/Caring & Respect
A Different Approach
Images of Conflict
Defining 4 Styles of Conflict Management
I Am Someone Who…
Cultural Self Portraits
Moving Beyond Stereotypes
Qualities of a Friend
Sharing Our Stories
Handling Prejudice/ Zero Tolerance for Discrimination
Outlets for Anger
Defusing Angry People
Basic Negotiation & Mediation
A Problem-solving Process
Court vs. Alternative Dispute Resolution
As mentioned in previous posts, Chase needs time to process new concepts and words. So the week prior to the workshop, I introduced him to the terminology and definitions that were going to be used in the training.
Given that so much information was going to be dealt with in a very short period of time, and that the training was being done in a group of kids, which can be a distraction for him, Chase needed a head start on the material, in order to make sure that he absorbed as much as possible during the actual training. I also took him to tour and experience the exhibits at the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, so he could gain a deeper understanding of the types and scope of conflicts that exist all over the world, and know that there are others who are striving to end hatred and violence. Preparing Chase in this manner, enabled him to better follow along, connect the dots, and answer questions during the training.
Much of the training is role playing and demonstration, which is the ideal way for Chase to learn.
As you can see from the topics that were addressed in the workshop, in addition to learning different techniques to properly handle conflicts, Chase and the other kids were given the opportunity to gain some self-awareness, as well as respect for how others think and feel. They learned that this is key to avoiding and resolving unnecessary conflicts.
The final activity of the training was a trip to the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, for the presentation of From Hate to Hope, in which Tim Zaal and Matthew Boger discuss with the audience their journey from perpetrator and victim to reconciliation. Their story is truly amazing and impactful, and one that resonated with Chase and his belief that bad guys can become good.
The workshop was a significant beginning in Chase’s journey to becoming confident and effective in the midst of conflict. Like all the rest of us, he will continue to be challenged and tested by different conflicts throughout his life. But he now has reference points, and concrete, practical resources to draw from when the going gets tough.