No Cheerios! How about Shreddies?
/ Author: Damon Hoffman
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No Cheerios! How about Shreddies?

As a father of a two-year-old, I like to think I’m a seasoned vet at this parenting thing. But my son routinely highlights the fact that I am an utter rookie when it comes to being a parent.

Recently, he woke up a little later than normal, and beckoned me with a boisterous, “Daddy, hug!” How could I resist? We proceeded through the typical morning routine: get out of the crib, get dressed, and then move on to breakfast.

As he had woken up later than normal, the time to leave was starting to loom over my head. With that in mind, and in an effort to expedite the process, I grabbed the first box of cereal—Cheerios—and began to pour him a bowl.

In the meantime, he was off selecting which spoon was the correct spoon for his favourite meal of the day. I placed the bowl on the counter as he climbed into his kitchen helper, his favourite place to eat his favourite meal. After ascending to the top of the helper, he was greeted with his bowl of Cheerios.

And this is the moment the world came crashing down on us.

Cheerios, unknown to me, was the wrong choice, and he was quite willing to share with me his displeasure. It began subtly with a quiet, “No Cheerios.” Then, as I verbally prodded him to eat, he reaffirmed that Cheerios were unacceptable, “No!” This was followed up with a clear indication of what he wanted, “Oatmeal! Oatmeal!”

Oatmeal is not something that can be quickly thrown together. Sure, there is instant oatmeal that cooks in a minute or two, but then you have to add in cooling time and of course the eternity that is a toddler eating anything. And we’re already starting to run late.

I dug my heels in and suggested he just eat his Cheerios so we can get going. He dug his heels in too, “OATMEAL!”

In an effort to break the him-versus-me stalemate, I offered up the following solution. “Do you want Shreddies?”

He replied with a resounding, “Yes!”

With that, I ate the Cheerios, he ate the Shreddies, and we were out the door and on our way to tackle yet another day.

It wasn’t until I was driving to work that I was able to fully understand what had just happened. This wasn’t an argument over Cheerios and oatmeal. It was an argument about what I wanted—the two of us to get out the door on time—and what he wanted—a say in what he was going to eat for breakfast.

Each of us had a position and, for a time, we were both unwilling to relent. The Shreddies solution addressed what we both really wanted—it addressed our interests.

Interest-based solutions are driven by finding a solution to a problem—not winning or losing. In the world of labour relations, more often than not, the union and the employer share some common interests. Both sides want to see the business succeed—why wouldn’t they? If the business is succeeding, employees keep working. If sales go up, then more staff can be hired. It’s a win-win for the employer and the union.

Of course both sides will sometimes have significant differences in interests as well, which can lead to conflict. This is where looking for interest-based solutions can help.

CLAC is a strong proponent of interest-based solutions in every aspect of labour relations. It’s one of the things that sets us apart from many other labour unions in Canada.

So remember, the next time you’re in an argument with a co-worker, manager, or a two-year-old, try to find the interests of the parties and then focus on how to meet the needs of both. More often than not, it will work, and you won’t find yourself saying, “Eat your Cheerios!” over and over again.

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