I love that quote by Albert Einstein. I have it written on a chalkboard in my kitchen to remind myself and my family to try to look at a problem a different way. In Choice Connections, it is important to understand the problem exists because we haven’t figured out a way to solve it yet, and we won’t be able to solve it unless we are able to step outside of our own viewpoint and look at the problem in a new way.
If we understand that we can only control ourselves, then the pressure is off to try to get our children to do what we want. When there is a conflict with your child, leave out the “You” and finger pointing. Stick with “I” statements and tell your child what you are willing to do to solve the problem and ask your child to do the same. William Glasser calls this approach to a problem as the solving circle. Each party steps into the imaginary boundaries of the solving circle and agrees to leave out the blaming and criticizing and only focus on what they themselves can do to help solve the situation. It also helps to understand that power struggles with our children are often about power or freedom and see what you can do to help your child feel respected and in control. If for example, the problem is getting chores done, you could tell you child, “I need these chores done, I am going to get started on dinner in an hour and I need it done before then. I can see you are really into your game right now. I am willing to wait until you finish the game as long as you think it can be done by the time I need to start cooking. You child will feel respected and feel like he has some power and choice in the matter and will have to work in the parameters of the solving circle by offering what he can do to solve the problem as well. If both of you work together without blaming and criticizing, you can reach a favorable solution for all through respect and connection.
This also works for sibling fights. Instead of jumping in as a referee. Set up a solving circle for you children and help them reach a solution together where each of their needs are met. Do this with empathy for each sibling and show them you have confidence that they can solve their own problem. This can go something like this: “Oh I hear James wants the Jump rope and Tonya says she still wants to play with it. Hmmm that sounds tough. How are you two going to solve that? Help them come up with a solution that doesn’t involve blaming and tattling by guiding them to only say how they can be a part of the solution to get both of their needs met.
When you sense an argument brewing, pause, take a deep breath and set up the rules for problem solving together in a connected way. No blaming or criticizing, just offer what you can to help solve the problem to get both of your needs met and let your child help solve the problem.
References: Glasser, William (1998). Choice Theory. Harper Collins, New York, NY.