Teach Your Kids to Solve Their Own Problems

Dr. Doug Miller offers some strategies for teaching your kids to solve their own problems. Could be a handy tool to have as you spend time at home through this crisis.

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HI PARENTS, I’M DR. DOUG.  I’M A FATHER OF FOUR AND A LICENSED PSYCHOLOGIST HELPING PARENTS BE BETTER LEADERS FOR THEIR KIDS BY REDUCING CONFLICT AND IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS.


WOULD YOU HAVE MORE ENERGY AT THE END OF EACH DAY IF YOU WEREN’T GETTING PULLED INTO EVERY PROBLEM YOUR KIDS ENCOUNTERED?  WOULD YOU FEEL PRETTY FORTUNATE IF YOU FOUND A SKILL THAT ALLOWED YOU TO TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOURSELF WHILE HELPING YOUR KIDS DEVELOP PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY AND GREAT PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS?


THE NEXT TIME ONE OF YOUR KIDS TOSSES YOU A PROBLEM, EXPERIMENT WITH LOVE AND LOGIC’S 5 STEPS TO PROBLEM SOLVING. IT GOES LIKE THIS.  YOUR KID COMES TO YOU WITH A PROBLEM.


STEP 1: PROVIDE A STRONG AND SINCERE DOSE OF EMPATHY.


WHEN YOUR HEAR, “HE’S MESSING WITH MY STUFF. HE WON’T LEAVE ME ALONE” OR “THIS PROJECT IS DUE TOMORROW!” OR “MY COACH WON’T LISTEN” OR “I CAN’T FIND MY, WHATEVER” OR ANY OTHER PROBLEM, RESIST THE URGE TO WHIP OUT THE DUCT TAPE WITH A QUICK-FIX SOLUTION.  INSTEAD, DELIVER A GRAND DOSE OF EMPATHY.


THIS MIGHT SOUND LIKE, “OH, MAN, THAT’S GOT TO BE HARD” OR “DANG. I BET THAT’S FRUSTRATING” OR “I LOVE YOU. THAT’S SO SAD.”


REMEMBER, EMPATHY OPENS THE MIND TO THINKING AND PROBLEM SOLVING.


STEP 2: LOVINGLY HAND THE PROBLEM BACK.


EXPERIMENT WITH ASKING, “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE GOING TO DO?”


DON’T BE SURPRISED IF THEY STARE AT YOU WITH BLANK LOOK ON THEIR FACE, SHRUG THEIR SHOULDERS AND MUMBLE, “I DON’T KNOW.”


STEP 3: GET PERMISSION BEFORE SHARING IDEAS.


THE ODDS OF SUCCESS GO WAY UP WHEN WE ASK, “WOULD YOU LIKE TO HEAR WHAT SOME OTHER KIDS HAVE TRIED?” BEFORE GIVING SUGGESTIONS.


NOTICE THE WORDING HERE! DON’T ASK, “WOULD YOU LIKE TO HEAR WHAT YOU SHOULD DO?” OR “WHAT YOU COULD DO?” DON’T ASK, “WOULD YOU LIKE TO HEAR WHAT I THINK YOU SHOULD DO?”  INSTEAD ASK, “WOULD YOU LIKE TO HEAR WHAT SOME OTHERS KIDS HAVE TRIED?”


WHEN WE TELL KIDS WHAT THEY “SHOULD DO” OR “COULD DO” OR WHAT WE THINK THEY SHOULD DO, WE AUTOMATICALLY INCREASE RESISTANCE.  WHEN WE SAY, “WHAT SOME OTHER KIDS HAVE TRIED” WE REDUCE RESISTANCE.


WISE PARENTS STILL PREPARE THEMSELVES FOR THE POSSIBILITY OF HEARING, “NO. I DON’T WANT TO HEAR WHAT OTHER KIDS HAVE TRIED.” WHEN THIS HAPPENS THEY SIMPLY REPLY,  “NO PROBLEM. LET ME KNOW IF YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND. I HOPE IT ALL WORKS OUT.”  AND THEY WALK AWAY.


THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THIS APPROACH DOESN’T DEPEND ON OUR KIDS LISTENING INTENTLY TO OUR INCREDIBLE WISDOM.  IT HINGES ON OUR ABILITY TO EMPATHETICALLY HAND THE PROBLEM BACK AND EXPRESS OUR LOVING DESIRE TO HELP THEM EXPLORE SOME OPTIONS.


STEP 4: PROVIDE A BRIEF MENU OF IDEAS AND HELP THEM EVALUATE EACH.


WHEN OUR KIDS ARE INTERESTED IN HEARING, “WHAT SOME OTHER KIDS HAVE TRIED,” WE HAVE THE GREEN LIGHT TO USE THE FOLLOWING LANGUAGE:


“SOME KIDS DECIDE TO, ‘TRY THIS OPTION’.  HOW WOULD THAT WORK FOR YOU?”


WE CUT DOWN ON THE RESISTANCE BY SAYING, “SOME KIDS DECIDE TO.  BLANK,’ ” AND HOW WE HELP THEM EVALUATE POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES BY ASKING, “HOW WOULD THAT WORK FOR YOU?”  DON’T FALL INTO THE TRAP OF THINKING THAT YOU NEED TO HAVE A LARGE LIST OF BRILLIANT SOLUTIONS.  JUST ONE OR TWO MEDIOCRE ONES WILL BE FINE.  THE SUCCESS OF THIS STEP DOESN’T REST ON WHETHER OUR IDEAS ARE AWESOME. IT SIMPLY RESTS ON US PROMPTING THEM TO BEGIN THINKING ABOUT POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS AND THEIR LIKELY CONSEQUENCES.


NOW, IT’S USUALLY WISE TO START WITH A RATHER LOUSY SUGGESTION.  THIS GETS THEIR CAUSE-AND-EFFECT NEURONS FIRING WHEN THEY REACT WITH, “THAT’S STUPID. THAT WON’T WORK!”  THERE’S AN ADDED BENEFIT, KIDS TEND TO REJECT THE FIRST THING WE OFFER SO DON’T WASTE IT ON SOMETHING INTELLIGENT.


STEP 5: ALLOW THEM TO LEARN FROM SOLVING OR NOT SOLVING THE PROBLEM.

AFTER SHARING SOME IDEAS, END BY SAYING, “I LOVE YOU. IF ANY KID CAN SOLVE THIS PROBLEM, YOU CAN.  LET ME KNOW HOW IT TURNS OUT.”


RESIST THE URGE TO TELL YOUR KIDS WHICH SOLUTION TO TRY! WHEN WE MAKE THIS MISTAKE, WE STEAL LEARNING WHEN THE IDEA THEY CHOOSE FAILS. WE ALSO STEAL LEARNING AND SELF-ESTEEM WHEN THE IDEA THEY CHOOSE SUCCEEDS.  INSTEAD, GIVE THEM THE FULL GIFT OF PROBLEM SOLVING BY ALLOWING THEM TO CHOOSE FOR THEMSELVES.


PARENTS WHO APPLY THESE FIVE STEPS SOON FIND OUT THAT THEY HAVE LESS STRESS AND MORE RESILIENT, RESPONSIBLE KIDS.  THEY ALSO DISCOVER THAT THESE STEPS WORK GREAT WITH ADULTS, TOO!


LETS REVIEW: YOUR KID COMES TO YOU WITH A PROBLEM.

  1. PROVIDE A STRONG AND SINCERE DOES OF EMPATHY.
  2. LOVINGLY HAND THE PROBLEM BACK TO THEM.
  3. GET PERMISSION BEFORE SHARING IDEAS.
  4. PROVIDE A BRIEF MENU OF IDEAS AND HELP THEM EVALUATE EACH.
  5. ALLOW THEM TO LEARN FROM SOLVING OR NOT SOLVING THE PROBLEM.


PARENTS, WE CAN ALL BE BETTER LEADERS IN OUR HOMES AND BY NOT GETTING PULLED INTO SOLVING EVERY PROBLEM OUR KIDS ENCOUNTER WE CAN HAVE MORE ENERGY AND HAVE MORE FUN RAISING RESPECTFUL, RESPONSIBLE AND RESILIENT KIDS IN THIS CHALLENGING WORLD. I INVITE YOU TO SEND ME YOUR QUESTIONS TO ASKDRDOUG@THELOCALNEWS.US AND I’LL ADDRESS THEM IN FUTURE EPISODES. PARENTS, I’M DR. DOUG.  BE YOU CHILD’S HERO.


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