Good communication is important in a family, but we can get stuck when we’ve shared what our issues are, and the person we’re sharing with has a different view. Now what? At this point I recommend using some specific problem solving steps; the ones I use I’ve adapted from The Winning Family by Louise Hart. (The book isn’t easy to find new, but you can buy it from her web site, if you are so inclined.)
- Identify and define the problem or conflict: what is really the problem? What exactly is wrong? Identify the problem without blaming. Be aware of everyone’s feelings and needs
- Brainstorm for possible solutions: express and record all ideas as fast as you think of them. Sometimes the craziest, wildest ideas become the best with a little fixing up. No judgment or discussion should be allowed while brainstorming.
- Evaluate the alternatives: look at the consequences of each choice. Would it solve the problem or make it worse? Work together to find a solution acceptable to all parties. Help your child see that give and take is necessary for a win-win solution.
- Choose the best solution: given the reality of the situation, what choice appears to be the best one for the moment? Help your child realize nothing is carved in stone and that he can change his mind later if the solution he chose isn’t getting him the results he would like
- Implement the solution: what changes need to be made? What will he do? When will he do it? For how long? Decide when to evaluate how it’s working.
- Follow-up evaluation: assess the results. Is the situation better, worse, or the same? If it is better, does he want to continue doing what he’s doing? If worse, consider another solution from the brainstorming session and implement it. Be persistent until the problem is resolved.
Good communication tools will get you so far; these problem solving steps can help you take those final steps in finding a resolution to the problem and coming together as a family.