Is the following scene something that could have happened in your house?

MOM: What’s wrong with you? I tell you this every night, but you never listen! Turn off the TV while you’re doing your homework.

CHILD: Just a minute.

MOM: No, not in a minute. Turn it off now!

CHILD: That’s not fair! Why should I?

MOM: Because I said so, that’s why! Turn it off, now, or else!

As parents, we’ve all had our share of battles trying to get our kids to behave. Most of us have probably used old-fashioned styles of discipline that include:

Blaming children for their bad behavior
Shaming them about what they’ve done
Yelling at them when nothing else works

It’s normal for parent to get this frustrated with their child. But if you want to really change a child’s behavior, shaming, blaming, and yelling don’t work. Sure, maybe in the short term, with your child scared into doing what you say. But the goal is to get children to cooperate—and behave well—in the long term. That’s where the three steps of problem solving come in.

Instead of battling with your child—leaving both of you unhappy and frustrated—try following these three steps:

1. Cooperate. Work with your child to find a solution.
2. Understand. Let your child know you understand he’s having a problem.
3. Problem-solve. Let your child know most problems have solutions, then work to find one together.

Here’s an example of using 1) cooperation, 2) understanding, and 3) problem solving for better behavior:

MOM: I notice you’re having trouble lately doing your homework at night because you’re watching TV.

CHILD: But my favorite show is on during homework time!

MOM: I know. That must be really hard.

CHILD: Yeah, it is.

MOM: It sounds like you’ve got a problem here. But the good news is that there’s probably a solution.

CHILD: Like what?

MOM: Well, how do you think we could solve this problem?

CHILD: I dunno. I guess I could do my homework before dinner.

MOM: That’s a great idea.

CHILD: But wait—that’s the time when I get to play with my friends!

MOM: Hmm. What about if we moved dinnertime a little bit later, so you’d have time to play with your friends and get your homework done before TV time?

CHILD: All right. I could try that.

MOM: OK. Why don’t we try it tonight?

True, in real life, finding solutions together doesn’t always work perfectly. And it takes more time and patience for the parent. But by helping your child solve their problem (instead of just telling your child what to do), you’ll be teaching an important skill. And you’ll be saving yourself a few headaches along the way!

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