Are you a pipe cleaner or a paddle pop stick?

If you hold a paddle pop stick by the ends and push them in towards the middle, it resists to a point and then it snaps. It’s too rigid to cope with the pressure, and even if you try to put it back together, it’s a little worse for wear and would probably need some glue to help fix it.  However, if you hold a pipe cleaner by the ends and push in, it bends effortlessly. It can be straightened out fairly easily and the pressure doesn’t cause it damage.

We all face many different problems every day – some of them are simple or trivial, others are more complex and cause stress.

There are two main attitudes we can use to go about dealing with these stressful problems, and there are benefits to each – either with the mentality of a paddle pop stick or as a pipe cleaner.

Imagine for example, that your group of friends wants to go out for dinner for someone’s birthday, but everyone has a different suggestion of where to go. If you’re all paddle pop sticks in this situation, things are going to crack and friendships could be hurt. If you approach it with the attitude of being flexible, then the situation can be resolved in a way that caters for specific needs and maybe even the birthday girl or boy’s preferences too!

Likewise, in a group presentation if everyone wants to do the writing and no one will budge to do the presentation, the group will fail in its purpose. The teacher or your boss in this situation would have to step in and be the glue that tries to put things back together.

Sometimes it’s important to be a pipe cleaner – especially in those times when you don’t have a lot of choice, there are some fairly firm boundaries or when other people are involved. People with pipe cleaner mentalities in these situations are easier and more pleasant to work with, and are also less emotionally impacted by things not going their way or not working out.

Other times it’s important to be a paddle pop stick and resist giving in to the pressure, especially in situations where your values or safety are compromised. Standing up for your principles in a debate, saying no to your child when they want to eat a whole tub of ice cream or refusing to lie to get yourself out of trouble are all good times to be a paddle pop stick.

What is your default mode? Are you a paddle pop stick or pipe cleaner by habit?

I encourage you to challenge yourself this week to pay attention to your typical mode of operation. Consider whether it is working for you or if it could be useful sometimes to try out the other mentality. Chat with your children about their defaults and use these examples next time you have a conflict with them.