By Guest Blogger Stacy Leighton

“When in doubt, hug it out!” While this advice rings true no matter your age or the time of year, it seems particularly fitting to share with you all today. Thanks to our friends at Forsyth Family magazine for sharing this post with us! ~ Katie

Standing in line at Trader Joe’s store I overheard this conversation: “‘I’m sorry,’ she said when she backed into my car. And I think she really felt sorry. But then she locked her car and went into the store as if nothing happened. As if there isn’t a $1400 dent in my door. And there she is! Over there shopping for produce. What do you think I should do? I mean, she IS my sister.”

I nearly chocked on my Costa Rican Tarrazu coffee sample. Which, incidentally, would have been a tragic waste of really good coffee. But I digress. Disagreements, however large or small between two people who are invested in their relationship—they happen. They happen all the time. In this case there is a specific cause and a logically desired outcome. But sometimes both sides are sure, absolutely certain, that their opposing position is correct. That there can be no gray area and no compromise. Has this happened to you? Today?

We teach our children to say, “I’m sorry,” but that’s not enough. What we really want to hear is, “What can I do to make you feel better?” Or, “How can I fix this?” That young lady needed her sister to follow her apology with, “I’ll get it fixed right away.” She avoided confronting her sister there. Her friend fueled her anger by soundly thrashing her sister’s character as the two exited the parking lot. You could almost see her fury coming off the car in waves. Left unresolved, I can only imagine the damage this has done to their relationship.

The current American idiom, “When in doubt, hug it out,” comes to mind here. Sometimes it is not the right place or time to argue. Sometimes we agree to disagree, but we’re still angry. In this case to “hug it out” means to agree to either let it go or table it for a later discussion. I like this. Good friends are often hard to find and worth working to keep. And family? Well, no matter how nutty we may be, we are still family and that relationship is precious, too. The actual “hug” is also very effective in diffusing anger.

This is a great teaching tool, too. With over 25 years in early childhood and elementary education, I think I could write a book about the power of a hug. A scenario that happens every day, everywhere, is when a child makes a mistake (and really, it’s their job, they are still learning) and over-reacts. They may react with shame or act out. This is a defense mechanism.

For example, we encourage our little ones’ independence by asking that they take their own cups to the sink. At least one child is guaranteed to spill it along the way. It’s a given. All-too-often the child that spilled will look at the teacher with abject fear. Some will shout that someone bumped them and then look at the teacher in fear of reprisal. This is no time for an object lesson.

The best teachers will reach out to the child. With a gentle shoulder touch or hug she will diffuse the tension. Only then can she explain that, “Sometimes everybody spills and here are some paper towels to clean it up.” She then makes a big fuss over their “good job” (and when no one’s looking she will use a wipe to get the rest up).

However inappropriate it may look, wouldn’t it be nice to see more people “Hug it out?” I think it would.