Helping Your Child Solve Problems
There is a BIG difference between solving every problem your child lays on your lap and working through them together. The latter strengthens your child’s capacities to problem-solve on his or her own, but also takes longer. Don’t forget: your job is not to be a superhero, but a mentor to your child. And what are a mentor’s greatest skills? Patient listening and active communication.
Consider the state of the world today and it won’t take you long to figure out that most of the world’s problems could readily be solved if people spoke less and listened more. Sadly, as famous American educator and author Stephen Covey once said: “Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand. We listen with the intent to reply.”
“Every act of communication is a miracle of translation.”
Writing for The Atlantic, high school teacher Paul Barnwell says that, while working on a communication project with his students, he realized conversational competence might be the single most overlooked skill we fail to teach.
Through modeling patient listening and active communication, you can not only mentor your children in working through difficult situations, but also help them develop their own effective communication skills. These skills will benefit them throughout their lives—in relationships, careers, and other social interactions.
So how exactly does active communication work?
Dr. Michael H. Popkin, PhD, founder and president of Active Parenting Publishers, suggests that parents first ensure that all channels of communication—words, tone of voice, and body language—align when communicating with children.
· Listen actively. Give your full, undivided, and undistracted attention to your children. Keep your own talking to a minimum and acknowledge what you’re hearing. Listen with empathy.
· Identify and respond to feeling. Identify what your children are truly feeling. Then, reflect those feelings back to them. Say something like, “It seems like you are feeling (thinking, considering, etc.) _________.”
· Look for alternatives and evaluate consequences. Help your children look at various options. Ask questions to help your children evaluate what the likely consequences might be for the choices they are considering.\
· Offer encouragement. Point out your children’s positive characteristics to motivate them.
· Follow up later. Ask your children what they did to solve their problem. If the results were positive, offer praise and encouragement. If the results were poor and the problem continues, offer empathy and return to discussing alternatives and consequences for future situations.
Above all, be present. Act in the moment to support but resist the temptation of offering quick solutions to any problem your children bring to you. Mostly, children just want to be heard, held, supported, and confident that you have their back.
Ready to learn more? Sign up for an Active Parenting course through Olive Crest or learn how you can host a course at your site. You can also reach us by phone at (714) 543-5437 ext. 9065.
Parenting Education is a program of Olive Crest. Funded by: OC Health Care Agency (HCA), Mental Health and Recovery Services, Office of Suicide Prevention, Mental Health Services Act/Prop. 63.