Beginning with tip #10, “Be clear on who owns the problem,” the Top Ten List is terrific to post on the fridge so parents can easily refer to it when things get off track at home. If there is conflict, being clear on who owns the problem can guide parents in deciding whether to provide assistance in problem solving (the child owns the problem) or to provide discipline – such as offering choices, setting clear limits, or using “I statements” – when the parent owns the problem. Providing support to a child who says he lost his homework (the child owns the problem) includes discussing how he feels and exploring his options for resolving the issue. Being clear on who owns the problem can also remind parents to avoid ineffective communication such as lecturing (“If you keep loosing your homework, you are going to fail your math class”), comparing (“Your brother never forgot any of his homework”), sarcasm (“If your head weren’t attached to your shoulders you would probably forget that, too”) or solving the problem for him (“I’ll bring your homework to you at school”).
One way of determining who owns the problem is to notice who is bringing it up. Your child is probably not bringing up the messy counter where he did not clean up after fixing his cereal for breakfast or the clothes left all over the bathroom floor! You are most likely bringing up these issues, and the problem belongs to you. If your child is bringing up issues, such as loosing his homework, being pushed by someone at school or being left off the invitation list to a party, he owns the problem and you can provide support.
When the problem is yours, speaking about how you feel is much more effective than talking about the behvior you would like your child to change. Be clear on how the problem influences you. For example, you do not like to cook in a dirty kitchen and someone might trip and fall while walking through a space with clothes on the floor.
Being clear and talking about how you feel are the first steps to resolving the problem.
Tune in next week for Tip #9!