Friday, February 17, 2012

52 Tool Cards Double Feature: Focus on Solutions and Problem Solving

These two tool cards are very similar, so I thought they would work well together as a double feature.  Every family has arguments and conflicts.  How we respond to them teaches our children skills they will use for the rest of their lives.

When conflict arises, it is so tempting to try to figure out who is to blame.  "Who started it?" is a question that pops out of our mouths automatically.  However, blaming leads to defensiveness and counter-blaming.  It also risks casting children into roles.  Most importantly, it doesn't necessarily prevent the problem from happening again.  
This picture illustrates the stand-off created by blame.  Focus instead on solutions.
Instead of blaming, another tactic to try is simply identifying the problem with as non-judgmental language as possible.  While identifying the problem, it is usually helpful to identify the child or children's feelings as well as your own feelings or expectations.

"I see two children who both want the pink dolly." 
"You want to stay and play.  I need to get home so we can make dinner for Daddy."

Then invite the child or children to brainstorm solutions with you or with each other.  

"How can we solve this problem?"  
"Let's put our heads together and think of ideas that might work." 
"This is a tricky situation. I'm confident that the two of you can think of a solution that will work." 

For very young children, you may be supplying many of the ideas at first, but be patient and give them a chance to make suggestions as well.  You might be surprised by their creativity!  Curiosity questions are a great way to draw out suggestions from a child that seems to be stumped. 

When possible, putting the ideas down on paper makes the process concrete for the child and helps them feel that all ideas are being considered equally.  Once you've come up with a sizable list of possible solutions, begin evaluating the ideas and pick one.

Here is a sample dialogue I wrote to reflect the scenario where the child doesn't want to stop playing at the park near dinner time:

Parent: "You want to stay and play. I need to get home so we can make dinner for Daddy. How can we solve this problem?" 
Child: "We could ask Daddy to bring food from a restaurant to the park and have a picnic!"
Parent: "What else could we do?" 
Child: "We could stay longer and get food from a restaurant on the way home." 
Parent: "Let's save going to a restaurant for another day.  Here's my idea: We could stay for five more minutes to give you time to say goodbye to the park." 
Child: "I could stay at the park by myself!  You go home to make dinner and I'll walk home when I'm finished playing." 
Parent: "I don't feel comfortable with you walking home alone.  I can see you really don't want to stop playing.  How about we turn leaving the park into a game?  We could have a race to see who can make it to our front door fastest." 
Child: "We could play cops and robbers and pretend we're chasing the bad guys!" 
Parent: "Let's go!"

When responding to and evaluating ideas, it's important to use non-judgmental language. If an idea isn't practical or just doesn't please you, say why it won't work for you using I-statements and avoid name-calling or unnecessary put downs.

The goal is to pick the solution that works best for everyone.  
This picture illustrates the family cooperating together on problem solving.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent park script; thanks! So glad to add your site as a parenting resource!


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