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Step One in Replacing Poor Parenting Strategies

Step One in Replacing Poor Parenting Strategies

In order to figure out the best way to Replace your challenge, the first step is to figure out who has ownership of the problem.

Michael Popkin, PhD. Creator of Active Parenting describes ownership as the person or persons who are directly affected by the problem and/or who are making a request to have the problem solved.

Ask your self honestly, who owns the problem?

Parents often have struggles with their kids because either they are trying to control their children, trying to fix a problem that isn’t theirs to fix or don’t know how to communicate in connecting ways. Or all of the above.

To know how to fix a problem we need to first understand the problem to get the correct answers. Here are several questions to ask.

  • Who is bringing up the problem?
  • Who has a need that they want addressed and changed?
  • What happens if the problem bothers the parents but not the child and the parent wants the child to take more responsibility to solve the problem?
  • Does the problem involve health, safety, rules or values?
  • If the child is going to find the solution, are they old enough to do so?
  • How much assistance do they need from an adult? Does the adult need to step in and make the decision on how to handle the problem along with the child?
  • What happens if the adult knows they need to help and the child doesn’t want their help?
  • Will the child be able to handle the problem with just emotional support from the adults?

Problems can be categorized into three areas:

  1. Problems where the adults want change and therefore the adults decide how it will be solved and is the primary person to enforce the solution.
  2. Problems where the adult and child are both willing to work on solving the problem together because both are affected by the problem and both want change.
  3. Problems where the child is the primary person impacted by the problem. They only want their parents to help them think about the problem, not tell them what to do.

Michael Popkin, PhD, calls this problem evaluation and solving approach Who Owns the Problem?  I use this very helpful approach with my clients.

Problems are messy. I can’t put each problem into an ownership category. Ownership depends on how the child and parent think about the issue. Sometimes parents try to fix a problem that isn’t theirs to fix. Sometimes parents get mad because they want their child to take more responsibility to fix the problem and the child doesn’t feel the problem needs to be fixed. They just don’t care.

This leads to controlling parenting tactics that often lead to frustration, anger, and a broken relationship. Understanding who is responsible for finding a solution and following through is crucial to maintain a relationship and build family harmony and cooperation.

If the child owns the responsibility to deciding on the final solution, then use strategies of a Supportor Parenting Role .

If both you and your child are directly interested in solving the problem then use strategies of a Collaborator Parenting Role.

If your child isn’t interested in solving the issue, then you’ll need to use strategies of a Director Parenting Role.

Once you determine your correct role, then at least you can feel confident that you are on the correct path even when your strategies are resisted.

Then it gets tricky. You may start out problem solving together as a Collaborator but the child doesn’t really want to do the chore or homework, so you’ll need to shift to the Director role to get follow through. Just know it’s your parenting role and don’t complain about making sure it’s done. If you learn effective Director role strategies, it won’t be too bad.

Who knows? Your child may surprise you and start taking full responsibility. Whohoo!

©2015 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 and private parenting coaching sessions. She writes the Middle School Mom column for the Parenting on the Peninsula magazine. She works with parents of 4 – 25 year-old children. Contact Cynthia at or 650. 679.8138 to have a complementary discovery session about finding solutions to your challenges.

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