The Three Levels of Collaborative Problem-Solving
Finding solutions together with your children is challenging.
Maybe you don’t know how to start the process, your children won’t respond, or even if you do develop a plan, their enthusiasm wanes quickly, and you’re left feeling discouraged. Common Collaborator discussion topics are homework, chores, vacations, getting and having a job, and college planning. Basically, the Collaborator role applies to any situation in which you and your child are both directly impacted by the decision.
Generally speaking, you use the Collaborator role when both you and your children want to find a solution to a problem. This is joint ownership. However, the level of commitment a child feels about actually doing the plan varies according to their interest level. When you understand their interest level and work within these limitations, you will be able to find a satisfactory solution.
There are three levels of buy-in, or interest, that you can experience with your child in the problem-solving process.
The first level is the easiest and applies when your child has full interest in successfully solving the challenge. For example, you may have a child who gets upset when you don’t leave for school on time. So, when you create a good plan together, she will want to follow it without the need for direction. Perhaps your child wants to get his homework done but lacks a good plan and needs help devising one. In both scenarios, once a plan is created, the child will follow it with little reminding from you because he has full interest. This is what parents want and often expect.
However, if you aren’t getting good follow through from your child, then the problem belongs in either the partial-interest level or no-interest level category. A child with partial interest wants to fix the problem, yet he doesn’t have enough internal motivation to follow the agreed upon plan. He will be engaged with you in the Five Step Collaborator Problem-Solving Process and will feel relieved to finally have a plan. Still, when it’s time to follow through, he lacks inner motivation and maturity. This is the time to use Director parenting role strategies to set external guidelines for him to follow until he can develop his own inner motivation as a guide.
The least successful Collaborator plans occur when your child has no interest in following the plan. Chore completion is a good example of this category. You want to teach your child the value of doing chores now as part of the family as well as for their future happiness, so you have a family meeting, and chores are assigned. Doing chores directly affects children because it teaches them the responsibility they need to become a successful adult. They don’t realize this, though, so they ignore the chore chart.
As a result, parents become mad or scared and push their no-interest child even more, which results in greater resistance. This negative parent-child interaction becomes a vicious power struggle cycle that leaves everyone feeling frustrated. Areas of no-interest vary from showering, which has an immediate negative impact, to completing a college application, which could have a long-term negative impact on your child.
You can tell your child doesn’t have any interest in solving a problem when they won’t talk to you, tell you to leave them alone, become angry with you, or use other forms of avoidance.
The goal of avoidance could be triggered by your child feeling overwhelmed, discouraged, or not valuing the problem. To get through this avoidance wall and be a successful Collaborator, it’s essential to spend as much time as is necessary listening to your child with empathy before attempting to discuss solutions. Becoming a skilled empathetic listener requires inner transformation on your part to the point where you believe that your child’s happiness is more important than her making you happy. She must feel that you are her Ally, and as an Ally, you are open to solutions outside your own comfort zone.
An extreme case of no-interest occurred when my own daughter didn’t value tedious homework that didn’t contribute to her knowledge.
Because she didn’t value it, she wouldn’t discuss a homework completion plan, and we couldn’t make her do it. This was difficult to accept, but once we put her happiness ahead of our expectations, we discussed alternative options with an Ally perspective. We used the Collaborator process to find a high school that matched her values. As a result of changing schools, she completed high school, attended an appropriate college, and is now financially able to support herself while living in a major metropolitan area. We let go of the fear that made us believe there was only one path to success, and instead, we found the best path for our daughter through the Collaborator problem-solving approach.
When you develop a plan together and there is partial or no interest, let go of the notion that a signed plan means your child will follow though.
This unrealistic expectation leads to parents telling their kids that they can’t trust them and that they’re irresponsible. These words hurt your children and lead to wall-building to protect their injured hearts and self-esteem. Instead, meet your children where they are. Start the problem-solving process with the Collaborator role and then follow up with the Director role to guarantee success. The more you respectfully guide your children toward success, the better they will feel about themselves and you.
My book, Ally Parenting: A Non-Adversarial Approach to Transform Conflict Into Cooperation will be published in March, 2017. To get more information about my book, go to www.allyparenting.com.
Read a parent success story about how parents and their children made a plan for getting up in the morning, and it was successfully followed.
©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 and private parenting coaching sessions. 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, , or 650. 679.8138 to have a complementary 45-minute discovery session. Why keep suffering? It’s time to change!