May 8, 2009
Don’t try to solve problems for your children, but teach them how to solve problems themselves.
Conflicts are inevitable in children’s lives and therefore children should learn as early as possible how to problem solve. Unless a child is in danger, parents need to let the child try to figure out options to handle their problems. Our task as parents is to listen and not try to solve their problems for them.
To deal with these behaviors, a parent has a number of choices. The action of choice for most parents is punishment. My mom used to wash out our mouth with soap when we used “dirty” words. A second choice would be to reward or bribe a child to address the behavior. This would be a parent who says, “If you will pick up your toys, you can have some ice cream.” A third choice of parents would be to ignore the behavior and pretend it didn’t happen or to pick up the toys for the child to avoid a fight.
Punishment, although needed at times, runs the risk of damaging the parent/child relationship. Rewards set up the expectation that bad behavior has benefits and will not change unacceptable behavior, in fact, it may increase it. Denial and/or picking up after a child encourages irresponsibility, since the child does not experience the consequence of his behavior.
“Parent Effectiveness” author and psychologist Dr. Thomas Gordon teaches parents to use “I Messages” to deal with unacceptable behaviors. An “I Message” has four parts. The first component is a non-blameful description of the unacceptable behavior. The second part is the feelings of the parent. Third is the tangible concrete effect the behavior has on the parent and lastly, is a request to the child.
Here is an example of an “I Message.” Parent A is disturbed when the children fail to close the outside doors in the middle of the hot summer. Parent A takes the children outside to the electrical meter box and says to the children, “When the doors are left open (a non-blameful description of the problem), it causes the hand on this meter to turn more quickly and every time this hand makes a circle, it costs us money (tangible concrete effect). When we have to pay a large electrical bill, I am afraid (feelings) I will not have enough money to pay our bills and still have money for all the fun things we like to do. I need for both of you to remember to close the doors each time you come out or go in” (request).
Try an “I Message” this week as an alternative to punishment, reward or denial. See what happens!
Thanks to Dr. Bill Mitcham, the Director of The Marriage Maintenance Center in Davidson, North Carolina, USA for today’s tip!
Do you have a tip you’d like to share? Please let us know below.