When you have a problem that both you and your children want to solve, start with the Collaborator Role rather than the Director Role. Everyone will be happier in the family when issues are discussed, solutions are found, and you encourage successful follow through. (Learn how to decide on your role.)
You first need to tell your family that you are no longer going to be in charge of, for example, getting out of the house on time, because this approach turns you into a nag. You’ll find solutions together instead. After you make this announcement, then you’ll use the 5-Step Problem-Solving Process to collaboratively find solutions together.
You can also use this process for other collaborative problems such as doing chores and sometimes homework.
First: State the problem to all concerned.
Find a relaxed time to talk about the joint problem that you want to solve and hopefully your children will want to solve the problem as well. If they don’t want to discuss the problem, you won’t be able to use the 5-Step Problem Solving Process.
Adult: “We’re having a hard time _______________________ “(see examples below):
- getting out of the house on time without problems. (I’ll use this issue in my examples.)
- making sure you get your homework done
- doing the chores cooperatively without arguing
Adult continues: “I’ve been acting as if it’s just my problem and that isn’t true. It’s a joint problem so we need to find solutions that we both agree on together. “
Then, proceed using the problem-solving process below.
The 5-Step Problem-Solving Process
Step 1: Stop Blocking Communication So You Encourage Expression of Thoughts and Feelings
A communication block is any remark or attitude on the part of the listener, you, that injures the speaker’s self-esteem enough to break communication.
Examples of blocks: commanding, giving advice, placating, interrogating, distracting, psychologizing, sarcasm, moralizing, know-it-all, me tooism and yelling is always a block.
Before you ask each person in the family meeting to share their thoughts and feelings about the problem, share these guidelines:
- Don’t blame or attack others as you say what you think and feel because they will get upset and the conversation will stop.
- Focus on listening to each other without using communication blocks.
- Try to listen to everyone’s thoughts and feelings before sharing possible solutions and developing a plan.
- It’s often helpful to write down notes of what each person says so they know they are being heard. Also, these can be referred to when discussing possible solutions.
Communication Blocks Examples:
Interrogating – Underlying Hurtful Message: You must have messed up somewhere.
Child: “My brother is in the bathroom so long that I can’t get in which makes me late.”
Adult: “Why don’t you get up earlier?”
Commanding – Underlying Hurtful Message: You don’t have the right to think of ideas on how to handle your problems.
Child: “You’re always yelling at me which makes me upset.”
Adult: “Get up on time, then I won’t yell at you”
Placating – Underlying Hurtful Message: You don’t have a right to your feelings. You can’t handle discomfort so I need to make you feel better.
Child: “My sister always bugs me, which makes me late.”
Adult: “Honey, she loves you and she’s only trying to be near you. You’re lucky to have a sister who loves you so much.”
Step 2: Listen Openly with Empathy to Allow Expression. No Problem Solving Yet.
Here are examples of a child’s complaint about the morning and four possible parental responses. Remember that in step 2, your goal is to allow expression of feelings and thoughts. Role play the child and the four responses. Which response encourages the child to continue talking?
Note that the empathetic responses are tentative. Your goal is not to be right or wrong. This is not the time to do reflective listening to clarify that you understand. This is only venting time.
1. Child: “My brother is in the bathroom so long that I can’t get in, which makes me late.”
- “It’s hard sharing a bathroom.”
- “You could make a schedule with your brother.”
- “Many people have to share bathrooms.”
- “You’re exaggerating.”
2. Child: “You’re always yelling at me which makes me upset.”
- “I don’t always yell.”
- “Why do you think I yell at you?”
- “Hmm. I see.”
- “That’s the only way you’ll get ready. You don’t get ready when I’m nice. ”
3. Child: “My sister always bugs me, which makes me late.”
- “It’s her way of showing that she loves you.”
- “You should be more patient with her.”
- “You’re not taking responsibility. You’re blaming her.”
- “That sounds like a big problem.”
Empathetic responses: 1-1, 2-3, 3-4
Step 3: Discuss ideas when you and your child share ownership of making the final decision on how to solve a problem. Collaborator Parenting Role
Each person first presents their perspective of the problem including feelings and thoughts. Then share and discuss the pros and cons of each possible solution agreeing on one to try.
Here are examples of problem solving encouragement statements and questions.
- “It’s hard to know right away the best solution.”
- “Let’s think about some possible things we could do to solve this problem and the possible results of each choice.”
- “It’s important that we all agree to try the solution.”
- “That’s one possible solution. What do you think could happen if we tried that?”
- “What’s another possible idea? “
- “There is no right answer so we can come up with many possibilities. “
Step 4: Make a Plan:
- “Of the ideas we’ve come up with, which one do we agree to try first?”
- “We’ll try our plan for a week ( _days) then have another meeting to see if it’s working out for all of us.”
Write down your agreed upon solution with signatures for everyone to see. Gently remind each other to follow through. Sometimes, kids resist doing what they say they will do, so you may need to shift to the Director Role to make sure follow through happens. Don’t get angry with your kids for “their lack of responsibility.” Agreeing to be responsible is the first step. Actually, following through is the next step that needs to be learned.
- Plans are best if they are written and posted so you can refer to them rather than reminding your kids what they are to do.
- Have them create the list and post in a place that they believe will be best to remind them.
- You may need to encourage compliance by using Director Role Strategies.
- Use the After-Then, or work before play, strategy.
- Point to the chart to remind children to follow through.
- Use the “It’s time to …..” phrase.
- Use connecting phrases along with expectation phrases.
- Avoid shaming and telling children that since they made the agreement that they should follow through.
Step 5: Follow Up: Check on the results at a set time.
If the plan was successful, celebrate!
However, it’s best to plan on having to redo your plan. Think of this as problem-solving practice. Refrain from getting angry. Learning how to discuss problems, find solutions, and then follow through is a lifelong endeavor. Don’t expect your children to act like mature adults.
- “Our first plan didn’t work as well as hoped. Let’s try again thinking of more ideas.”
Learning how to collaboratively solve problems will give your kids a big leap forward in learning how to manage their relationships at work, in school, and in their personal relationships. You will find more information for the entire process in my book, Ally Parenting: A Non-Adversarial Approach to Transform Conflict Into Cooperation. Go to www.allyparenting.com for details.
©2017 Cynthia Klein, Bridges 2 Understanding, has been a Family Success Coach since 1994. She works with parents and organizations who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking, private parenting coaching sessions, and her book, Ally Parenting: A Non-Adversarial Approach to Transform Conflict Into Cooperation. She works with parents of 5 – 25 year-old children.
To learn how Cynthia can help you solve your specific challenges, contact Cynthia at bridges2understa.wpstagecoach.com, [email protected], or 650. 679.8138 to have a complementary 45-minute discovery session. Why keep suffering? It’s time to change!