Problem-ownership is one of the guiding principles of Thriving! parenting. Quite simply, he or she who owns a problem, solves the problem.
Problem-ownership promotes responsibility. It also emphasises maturity, as solving issues that you own is a mark of growing maturity within our society.
Sometimes we take responsibility away from kids by solving their problems for them. We do this when we cover for them when they can’t get their homework in on time; or give them extra pocket-money when they spend it too quickly; or do their chores when they forget.
We can all cite examples where we resolved kids’ problems for them. Guilty your honour! I’ve done it far too often myself!
One area of problem-ownership that is easily overlooked is around sibling relationships.
There are times when siblings do and say some awful, disrespectful things to each other. When this happens they need to repair relationships themselves.
I can recall numerous times when one of my kids was given the cold shoulder by a sibling because they had said or done something that upset him or her. The shunned child would invariably come to me asking to sort out the problem.
Invariably, they wanted me to get their sibling to talk to them, or in child-speak, “Stop him/her being mean to me!”
In this situation I invariably acted like Switzerland – remaining neutral in times of conflict. However, I did give them ideas about how they could fix the situation with their upset sibling.
If you experience similar challenges with your children, then here are three responses you can make, that shift the problem to where it lay:
- “How can you fix this?”
- “How can you make it up to your sister/brother?”
- “Have you asked your sister/brother to forgive you?”
Relationship restoration is a lifelong skill. It can involve all or some of the following: swallowing your pride, asking for forgiveness, making up, giving something back, not holding a grudge and moving on.
Relationship restoration between siblings is not something parents can do. We can though, encourage kids to own their own relationships, face up to any issues and make amends for any wrong doing. Relationship restoration also develops empathy in kids, which everyone knows is a powerful relationship skill.
It also helps if kids see their parents restoring relationships without guilt or manipulation so they see firsthand how to make amends in a giving, mature way.
Here’s your parenting challenge: Make relationship restoration such an ingrained part of your family’s culture that your kids think that making up to a sibling who has being wronged is a normal behaviour.......much in the same way as thanking someone for their assistance should become second nature to all of us.
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