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Focus on Solutions

Many times when children have a problem, parents rush in to solve it. Parents think it's their job to solve the problem. For example, when children procrastinate doing heir schoolwork and almost miss (or even miss) the deadline, parents will often tell them what they need to do next time a project is due to get it done on time. When two children are fighting over the same toy, parents may just take away the toy or they may dictate who gets it first and for how long. How well do these strategies work? The next time the children have a problem do they try to figure it out themselves or do they continually ask their parents?

Something that can be done instead of dictating a solution is to ask questions. Ask children what they would do differently next time if something didn't go their way. If they have a problem ask them how they think they can solve it. Children are much more capable than adults often give them credit. They may surprise you with the solutions that they come up with.

Another facet to focusing on solutions is when children make a poor choice. If, for example, your child stays out past curfew, instead of focusing on the problem, focus on the solutions. You and your child can brainstorm obstacles that are standing in the way of her getting home on time and how she can solve those problems. You can also ask her what the consequence should be if she doesn't come home on time in the future.

Another example of focusing on solutions when children make an inappropriate choice is when a child tantrums because he doesn't get what he wants in the store. After he is calm talk about the incident and what can be done next time so that it doesn't escalate to a tantrum. Ask him questions about what he was feeling leading up to the tantrum. Was he mad? sad? frustrated? If he doesn't know, talk through what the emotions might feel like.

After you talk about the emotions behind his actions, talk about what he can do when he is told he can't have something. Does he need you to make expectations clear before entering the store (i.e. stating your purpose for being at the store and what he can expect)? Can he take deep breaths when he starts getting upset? Can he use another calming strategy? Help him think through different options of what he can do next time he gets upset.

Focusing on solutions is all about brainstorming options so the next time a problem comes up children feel capable of solving it. They can also learn the process of solving one problem and transfer it to another problem. Focusing on solutions helps children feel capable of living their lives as independently as possible.

What is your experience with focusing on solutions? What works well for you?

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