The holiday break is a great time to practice having collaborative discussions about how the family will spend the time as well as other fun topics. Most of the time parents want to talk about having kids do chores. While I’m all in for doing chores, try using the 5-Step-Problem Solving Process on things that are enjoyable.
Perhaps you are going to visit relatives. Rather than telling your kids what will happen and your expectations for their behavior, see the discussion as a time for your kids/teens to express their feelings, concerns, and their own expectations.
The 5-Step Collaborative process is discussed in chapters 31 to 34 in depth in Ally Parenting. Also, read chapters 10 – 13 for information about steps 1 and 2. Here is a brief overview.
Step 1 – Stop Blocking Communication
The best way to encourage kids and teens to think aloud to you is by allowing them space to share without saying anything that will shut them down. There are 10 main ways you can block them. 1. Commanding 2. Giving Advice 3. Placating 4. Interrogating 5. Distracting 6. Psychologizing 7. Sarcasm 8. Moralizing 9. Know-it-all 10. Me-tooism. Complete information about these blocks is in chapter 10 of Ally Parenting.
Step 2 – Listen Openly
After you learn what not to say, then work on encouraging their expression with empathetic phrases. It’s not time yet to use judgment and come to a plan. Listen without analyzing with such phrases as, “That’s interesting, You seem concerned about … or It sounds important that you….” Complete information about empathetic responses is in chapters 11 and 12 in Ally Parenting
Step 3 – Discuss ideas
This step gets easily missed as parents want to get to a solution or plan right away. If you ask your child a question and they respond, “I don’t know”, that means you haven’t taken time to discuss possibilities. You can start with, “Let’s talk about ideas before we make a final plan.”
Step 4 – Make a plan together
In a collaborative plan, not everyone’s wants will be met. This is a time to negotiate and come up with a plan that you will try. It might need to be re-evaluated later and changed. This concept will help kids learn that nothing is permanent. Instead, it’s good to learn how to be flexible.
Step 5 – Follow-up to determine success.
When you make a plan, also set a date when you will check in to see how the plan is going. This is crucial because many plans don’t work as smoothly as we want. This way, you won’t just get upset, instead, you’ll get back together and ask, “How is it going so far?” Also, your kids know that their needs will be listened to which feels great to them.
I encourage you to take the time to have this connection-building family activity with your children. They will feel heard and valued which in itself will help everyone get along better. You will feel better too, learning how to build more family cooperation.
Here’s a great skit about using collaborative problem-solving to discuss whether to go to Grandma’s or the movies. Click Here to read.
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Copyright 2022 Cynthia Klein.