At a recent seminar, our speaker presented the idea that there are four basic strategies to deal with any problem: Ignore, Resolve, Manage and Prevent.
At first, the list appeared overly simplistic. Could ignoring a problem be an effective strategy?
After some reflection, I recognized that ignoring a problem is a powerful strategy. Not every problem needs or deserves our attention. It’s important to know when and how we should deal with a problem and to be able to prioritize our efforts.
The art of parenting includes choosing appropriate strategies and solutions for our problems.
Life is problems and problem-solving. Stating our problem in writing helps bring the problem clearly into focus.
There are five basic steps to problem-solving.
1. Recognize that there is a problem.
2. State the problem.
3. Identify all possible solutions. (Using strategy is critical here.)
4. Choose a solution.
5. Implement the solution, and make sure it works.
Here is an example, not involving children, to help highlight these four strategies. You look out your front window, and your neighbors have an old junk car parked in their yard.
You could choose to ignore the situation, thinking it will be gone in a few days, since your neighbors have always kept a lovely yard.
To resolve it you might pick up the phone and ask, “Bob, what year is that Chevy in your front yard?”
After trying to resolve it, using a management strategy might include not looking out your window, calling the neighborhood association or paying for a tow truck, among others.
A prevention strategy could include creating a neighborhood rule against cars parked in the grass, developing good relationships with your neighbors, starting a beautification program, etc.
Dr. Phil McGraw, for his book, Family First, surveyed 1700 parents. The top three behavioral problems parents had with their children were as follows:
- Children not paying attention.
- Children losing control or having tantrums.
- Children talking back.
To make our parenting job easier, it makes sense to strategize how to deal with or avoid these three problems. As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
To prevent these three problems, focus on the following:
- Create a family structure and relationship with your child so that they rarely or never occur.
- Teach your child to pay attention instead of having an inattention problem.
- Teach your child self-control and self-expression instead of allowing tantrums.
- Develop a relationship built on mutual respect to avoid the disrespect inherent in back-talking.
Even if we do everything we can to prevent these problems, stuff will happen.
There are too many things we cannot anticipate. When we have a difficulty we need to use all strategies to consider as many solutions as possible.
With talking back, for example, ask these strategic questions:
- How are we going to prevent our child from talking back?
- If he or she does talk back, how are we going to manage that situation?
- When we try to manage a situation, how are we going to resolve the issues that triggered the talking back?
- How do we know when to ignore a disrespectful statement or when to escalate it to a resolution?
Use strategy to prevent, manage, resolve or ignore inevitable problems.
That’s life. Being strategic will help make the best of it.
For an article about five-step problem solving with children: