One of the best skills we can foster in youth is independent problem solving. Unfortunately, it is common for adults to get in the habit of “doing for” kids. “Just tell them…. If I were you, I’d…” The problem with this strategy is that when we solve problems for kids, we inadvertently increase the likelihood they will seek us out to navigate future concerns. “He won’t move out of my way… She’s looking at me funny… He grabbed that from me…”
Trust me. I have learned through continual mistakes in this area for 20+ years with my own children. I taught the boys to come to me at the drop of a hat when problems surfaced. “Dad, Micah took my I-Pod… Marc’s cat kicked litter all over the bathroom floor… Max won’t get out of my room…” You see, I’m quite adept at telling my children what to do. It’s amazing; I have a solution for everything.
My children rarely complained to my wife – because she empowered them to solve their own problems. When the boys approached her, the response was always the same: “How do you think you should solve that problem?” This sent a powerful message that they could independently make good choices.
So when problems arise, spend more time asking questions and less time providing answers. Three main reasons: 1) We won’t always be around our kids to provide the answers. 2) Questions foster discussions, which can strengthen relationships. 3) When we ask questions, we are forced to talk less and listen more, which is quite possibly the best behavioral strategy of all.