The last article was about the benefits and effectiveness of focusing on solutions rather than blaming and punishing. Here is an example of how this might work between a parent and child.
Let’s say your child isn’t turning in homework. A blame-focused approach would be to label this as misbehavior, discover what your child did instead of doing homework, make threats, and determine some kind of consequence for the misbehavior. The interchange might go like this: “You are being so irresponsible. What are you doing during the time you say you’re doing homework? You are never going to amount to anything if you don’t learn how to play by the rules. I’m taking away your phone privileges until you take care of this problem.”
A solution-focused approach starts with the situation at hand, does not label or threaten, and invites the child to be part of the solution. The interaction might go like this: “When I heard that you weren’t turning in your homework, I felt disappointed. You must be a little anxious yourself about getting behind in your work. What do you think could be done about the situation?”
Your tone, facial expression, and posture are important; avoid sarcasm and indignation. If you are truly asking for participation in the problem-solving process, regardless of how old the child is, she will have useful ideas about how to do things differently. Sometimes the ideas can be quite silly and far-fetched. Accept those, too. If you collect four or five ideas from your child, add a couple of your own, and maintain a friendly tone throughout, you and your child are likely to come up with something that will work for each of you. A solution determined in this way has a longer lasting effect than a punishment does.
Children who have a Supportive Disposition or Interactive-Others Talent will probably enjoy solution-focused problem solving the most. This kind of working together meets their needs for interaction, for talking things over, and for being part of a team. Organized Disposition children will probably enjoy this process, also, especially if you make lists together of different solutions and check them off as you eliminate them.
Young people with a Spontaneous Disposition can enjoy problem solving if it doesn’t take too long, they are able to joke around, and if it can be fun. If your child has a Humor Talent, joking around is essential. Kids with Spontaneous Disposition or a Humor Talent need to be acknowledged for their cleverness.
Imaginative and Curious Disposition kids as well as those with Spatial Talent are likely to want to draw or scribble during the problem-solving process. The Imaginative and Curious kids might even want time to think things over and make final decisions at another meeting.
Finding solutions together is an effective way to share responsibility for the outcomes of difficult situations. Don’t be trapped into thinking that you must be in charge and know all of the answers for how to do things right. Don’t be tricked into thinking that it is your job to find out who is wrong and who should be punished. As you work together with your child to find solutions, you will be pleasantly surprised at the changes that occur!
In Part 3 we will look at a classroom example.