These ideas are taken from the book How to Talk So Kids Can Learn by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlich, specifically the chapter called “Solving Problems Together: Six Steps that Engage Children’s Creativity and Commitment.” Whatever struggles your family might face surrounding lessons, I hope these steps ease them!
1. Listen to your child’s feelings and needs. This is a big one! When you acknowledge your child’s frustrations, you are demonstrating to them that you’re on their team, a sympathetic partner rather than an adversary. It will put them in a much more cooperative, productive mood.
2. Summarize their point of view. Make sure to take the time to make them feel truly heard. Be sure to offer a straightforward summary, without judging or looking down on their feelings.
3. Express your feelings and needs. Try to keep this section as brief as possible. Although it’s very important that you feel heard and that your child understands how their negative behaviors affect you, their attention span is only so long. Aim to make “I” statements, rather than “you” statements: not “you’re just not paying attention” but “I think you should focus more while practicing.”
4. Invite your child to brainstorm a solution with you. Make sure to use collaborative language, to help them feel more comfortable in the discussion. Something like “let’s think of ways to help you feel more ready to begin practice time” shows that you want to work with them to improve the situation.
5. Write down all the ideas without evaluating. Your child is likely to have some outlandish ideas, but if you criticise them, they’re less likely to share any ideas with you at all. There’s no harm in writing down the suggestion that they get 15 desserts every time they practice, even though you aren’t willing to agree to that one; don’t give things like that too much attention, and move on to the next idea.
6. Together, decide which ideas you plan to use and how to implement them. Follow through is the big thing, here. The best intentions can come to nothing if you can’t agree upon a plan of action, or if the planned course of action isn’t regularly followed. Furthermore, don’t lose hope if the plan fails! Some problems are more complex, and require more planning to solve. Rather than scolding your child for not following a plan they helped come up with, say to them, “let’s figure out why this didn’t work and how to fix it.” This way, you preserve their feelings and help them feel more like being cooperative.
If this seems like it might be a tedious process, don’t worry! The author addresses that, mentioning her own worries that this would be a long, complicated process. She says that this is basically a matter of everyone expressing their feelings and opinions, and then working together on finding a solution. Being a classroom teacher herself, she was able to effectively use these strategies with a whole room full of children. If it can work with so many children all at once, I’m sure it can help with yours!