The following five steps will help your child become responsible and independent. The application of this process is really as large as your imagination will allow, and it will help with a myriad of typical behavior problems, from sibling rivalry to procrastination of chores or of homework. The steps are: 1. actively listen to your child; 2. tell your child out loud that you care; 3. admit to your child that you can’t solve the problem alone; 4. empower your child to solve the problem; and 5. let your child face the consequences.
Actively listen to your child. The first step to resolving any problems with your child is to allow them to explain their thoughts and feelings. By acknowledging what you have heard, they will know you have listened to them. The acknowledgement procedure entails clarifying what you heard: “I hear what you are saying. You seem really upset and you feel that your sister isn’t being very considerate of your privacy. That must really bother you.” Through the process of validating their feelings, the relationship stays intact while you deal with the issue at hand.
Tell your child out loud that you care. We all do a great job as parents in reminding our children of what they should be doing. But the biggest impact comes when you catch them being good and can point that out to them as well. Remember to tell them you care and love them – they need to hear it from you often! As they age and become teens, you can continue this by letting them over hear you on the phone telling others about their great achievements and talents.
Admit to your child that you can’t solve the problem alone. Young children, five and under, need help developing structure and setting limits. After five, they need to begin participating in the process. Tell your child that you need his input to resolve the problem. You might say, “Son, I need your help. Every night we go through this business with the dishes. Frankly, I can’t solve this problem alone.” Appealing to him in this way gives him a sense of ownership of the resolution to the problem and presents a great teachable moment for you. Use these times to teach problem solving techniques.
Empower your child to solve the problem. Invite them to join the process. Ask them to offer solutions. Write down their ideas; this really validates them and the entire process. It says that what they have to contribute is important and valuable. Don’t be surprised if you encounter some resistance with older children when you begin this method. They have not been required to think about the problems in the past and it has always been easier to just get mad at the enforcer rather than to participate in the problem solving.
Let your child face the consequences. Letting your child face the consequences of his actions or non-actions is a gift to both them and you. By not allowing consequences you are handicapping your child for any type of real life situation. We all have consequences for our actions: some good, some not so good! Use natural consequences whenever possible and step in with imposed consequences only if necessary. Remember to involve them so they can learn the process.