‘Bad Dad’ Emerges as Better Dad

The text below is taken from vol. 1 issue 2 of”Conflict Chronicles” of October 15th, an email newsletter published by the Conflict Resolution Center of the University of North Dakota:

Carla and Joel came to mediation to work through their differences as they moved toward divorce.  They met several times to talk about who would have primary custody of their two children, and what kind of parenting time could be worked out.

As with many couples, Carla had been thinking about separating long before Joel, who was still hurt and resistant to the idea.  In fac[t], many times, Joel talked about the hatred he felt for his own mother for leaving his father, and would typically end with the threat, “I’m gonna make sure that the kids hate you as much as I hated my mom.”

Because of the mediators’ commitment to the ethics and principles of transformative mediation practice, they never lectured or stopped him, but rather reflected: “Joel, you seem to be so distraught about the situation that you are sure the kids will hate Carla for doing this.”  Of course, Carla strongly argued against this action by Joel and reminded him of the abuse his mother suffered, but he didn’t seem to listen.

Surprisingly, between the second and third mediation sessions, Joel visited his mother on his own accord – the first visit in more than 12 years – and made amends for what had happened years ago.  In that third mediation session, he cried, and told Carla about how this meeting with his mom had gone, and vowed never to allow that kind of hatred to impact his own children despite the divorce.

For the mediators, it was proof that people rarely change when pushed, or before your eyes, and that by trusting in the process and  […] in [the] parties’ capacity, your patience is often rewarded when the ‘bad dad’ emerges as a better dad.