When you try to “help” kids solve their problems and you get an “I don’t know” in response, then you are heading down the wrong path. You have tried to get to the answer way too quickly.
Even though the quick-solution directive road seems fastest, it is not because it is filled with strong resistance from your child. You are trying to drive the conversation and most kids, and adults, don’t like to be controlled. You will know you have chosen the directive road when your child responds to your attempts at finding the solution in these ways:
- “I don’t know.”
- “You don’t understand.”
- “Leave me alone.”
- “No. That idea is stupid.”
“I don’t know” is a common response when parents ask, “What are you going to do?” The child hasn’t gone through the process of sharing emotions, brainstorming ideas, evaluating them, and then deciding on a first choice. How can he know what to do? You have skipped the entire problem-solving process and just asked for the final decision.
Telling your child “I know what you should do” can be just as dangerous. This directive remark gives your child the underlying message that he can’t figure it out so you had better figure it out for him. Because the interrogating and giving unwanted advice approaches can feel hurtful to your child, communication usually shuts down leaving everyone feeling frustrated, not valued, and discouraged.
Instead, I suggest learning about the 3 Step Problem-Solving process of 1) not blocking communication, 2) listening openly, and 3) discussing ideas. Then you will get a happy child who can learn how to solve problems and create a resilient life.
©2014 Cynthia Klein, Bridges 2 Understanding, has been a Certified Parent Educator since 1994. She works with parents and organizations who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children of all ages. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking and private parenting coaching sessions. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and 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 bridges2understa.wpstagecoach.com, cynthia@bridges2understanding,com, or 650. 679.8138 to learn more about creating the relationship you want with your children.