How to help your children solve their problems

Arantza Ríos. Professor. IE Business School

31 March 2016

By all means be a gear lever in your child’s life by helping them kindle the flames they have inside, but don’t do things for them that they can do for themselves.

Thanks for your support mum! That’s how my fifteen-year-old daughter signed off her latest email to me.

It made me think and I realized that this is the role I want to have in my children’s lives, namely to help them with their development, “be their support.”

I meet a lot of parents, protectors, who immediately try to mediate and resolve any problem their children have by talking with the teacher, the mother of the child they have a problem with, etc. By doing this they’re clipping their wings of growth.

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What has worked for me, and I want to share it with you, is that when your child has a problem, you shouldn’t be the one who solves it for them, but rather you should help in order to make them the person who finds the solution. This way you help them grow and you help fill their backpack with tools that will be useful to them for the rest of their lives.

Here’s what you have to do

  1. Spend as much time with them as they need to express everything they feel and are experiencing. In my case it took me an hour-long conversation by Skype.
  2. Be strong in the face of the emotions your children are feeling. It’s possible that while they’re telling you their problem they start crying, become anxious, frustrated, etc. I know it’s very hard for a parent to see their child in that kind of situation. Of course you have to comfort them, but let them feel their emotions. 
  3. Help them with questions aimed at pinpointing the problem.
  4. Ask them what they can do for themselves? That way you help them to find the solution. 
  5. Help them to visualize what their situation would be if they had solved their problem. This helps drive them to achieve their objective. 
  6. Try to get them to commit to carrying out their plan, linked to some type of action. In my case I asked her to send me a WhatsApp when she had done it.
  7. Do some follow-up. This is very important to ensure that the child has done what they said they would do, and, if they haven’t, you have to gauge what has prevented them from doing it.
  8. Finally, look for an ally that can also help them, someone close to the environment in which the problem arose. A teacher, for example, if the problem is related to school, the trainer, if it has something to do with a sports team, the monitor, if it is something that has happened at a holiday camp, etc. It is important that the person in question knows about the problem and that they listen to the child. You can read more about this aspect in the post that I published under the heading “Coaching for children, the power of an alliance.”

Be the change agent in your children’s lives, rekindle the flames they have inside, but don’t do things that they can do for themselves. You’ll see how, in the long run, they’ll be eternally grateful and you will feel better because you’ll know that your child is capable of solving problems for him or herself.



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Tel. +34 915 689 600