CHILD PROBLEM TOOLBOX
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Step B: Child Problem Toolbox 165
CHILD PROBLEM TOOLBOX
166 The Parent’s Toolshop
B CHILD PROBLEM TOOLBOX
Secure houses protect us from nature’s storms and other outside threats by controlling who enters our house. Likewise, people build emotional walls and doors that protect them from emotional storms and outside threats by controlling who enters their private world of feelings. The Child Problem Toolbox is represented by a door, because it contains the tools that help others feel trusting enough to open their emotional doors, share their thoughts and feelings, and weather the stormy problems that can happen in life.
IN THIS SECTION
Step B of the Universal Blueprint is the Child Problem Toolbox. In it, we begin learning about “F-A-X Communication.” One part of F-A-X Communication is sending messages to others, which we learn in Chapter 10, “The Clear Communication Toolset.” In this section, we learn the other part of F-A-X Communication, receiving messages. The Child Problem Toolbox contains two toolsets that help us respond effectively to Child problems or the child’s feelings and perspective of Parent problems.
Many of the explanations in the Child Problem Toolbox are presented in general terms, referring to people, not just children, because these tools are useful in any human relationship. Wherever you see the word child you can replace it with the other person.
WHEN TO USE THIS TOOLBOX
- Tell a story, express strong feelings (positive or negative), or share a problem.
- Have others understand their thoughts, feelings, or opinions.
- Clarify or resolve a problem.
As we learned in the Universal Blueprint chapter, the first step in resolving problems is to identify what type of problem we are facing:
We can use the Child Problem Toolbox as part of our response to any type of problem.
No Problems (NO)
The Cooperation Toolset taught us to acknowledge feelings when setting limits with positive words.
The Independence Toolset taught us to use listening and problem solving when children want information or help. This helps us avoid taking over their problems.
Parent Problems (P, PU, PO)
When Parent problems occur we “come into the house” to respond (Step C: Parent Problem Toolbox). It is vital that we take Step B, Acknowledging the other person’s feelings or perspective, before or while we take Step C, Setting limits, expressing our concerns and redirecting misbehavior. If we only focus on our issues, other people usually feel defensive and stop listening or are distracted because they are waiting for their chance to talk. Either way, we lose our audience. When we have a problem (Parent problems), we briefly bring up the issue and quickly shift to our listening skills, allowing others to express their feelings. We can also acknowledge feelings while we are redirecting misbehavior. When we include Step B, Acknowledging feelings, others can work through their emotions, which is the real issue beneath their behavior.
We need to make a clear distinction, at this point, that allowing negative feelings and opinions is different from allowing hurtful actions. Feelings are okay, they are there and they are real. If hurtful actions are involved, that part of the problem is a Parent problem (SHARP RV). Listening is the first step (Step B), which could only involve a half-of-a-sentence, followed by steps C1 and C2, which set limits and redirect the misbehavior. Once parents and children understand the problem, the parents can come back to the Problem-Solving Toolset to get agreements for future behavior.
Let’s quickly review what Child problems are and how to diagnose them. Then, we will learn the specific tools for resolving them.
When a problem arises, we stop to consider the Child (PESS) and Parent (SHARP RV) issues.
168 The Parent’s Toolshop
In this section, Step B, the Child Problem Toolbox, we are only going to focus on resolving Child problems. Once we know how to use these tools to their full potential, we can also use them to help resolve Parent problems.
TAKING OVER CHILD PROBLEMS
Imagine a problem being like a ball. When people show us a ball (a problem), they are not saying, “take this ball.” They are really saying, “Look at this ball I have.” When adults see a child’s ball (problem), many take it away and say, “I know this ball! I had this ball once! What I did is . . .” This is taking the ball and running with it. We need to “keep the ball in their court.” Notice the ball and find out how the child feels about having it. “Look at that ball! Is it heavy? I see some spikes there, does it hurt to hold it? What do you plan to do with that ball?” If we always take a child’s ball (problem), the child will stop showing it to us. Instead, we want children to learn how to handle different kinds of balls (problems) on their own.
Taking responsibility for others involves fixing, protecting, rescuing, controlling, and taking on their problems, feelings, and responsibilities.
Parents are often confused about the difference between being responsible for others and being responsible to them.1 When we take responsibility for our children’s problems, we offer solutions, give answers, and worry about whether our children will “do the right thing.” This approach suggests children are not capable of making good decisions for themselves. Many parents think adults have better ideas than children—and if we deny them opportunities to grow and develop problem-solving skills, these beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies. If we, instead, support and guide people as they figure out solutions to their own problems, their creativity and independence blossom. This is being responsible to others.
- Let them figure out the solution on their own by showing respect for their struggle and giving encouragement.
- Use the F-A-X Listening Toolset to help them work through their emotions, but leave the final decision up to them.
- Use the Problem-Solving Toolset to help them explore alternatives and plan a solution to the problem.
1 Listening for Heaven’s Sake, by Dr. Gary Sweeten, Dave Ping, and Anne Clippard, (Teleios Publications, 1993).
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